Extending the Airline/Health Care Metaphor

Despite the light shown upon the non-profit hospital sector by The Wall Street Journal Friday, some hospitals around the country have struggled to keep their doors open.

And after this weekend’s airline fallout (of which you may very well have been affected by) where ATA, Aloha Airlines, Skybus, and Skyway all ceased operations leaving passengers stranded and left to deal with their credit card companies for refunds (yikes!), I’m beginning to see another developing metaphor between the airline industry and health care.

Rising fuel prices and a general economic slowdown are being held responsible for the shutdowns.  We can find similar issues in health care: rising costs of technology and more uninsured patients.

A few months ago, the future of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, which cares for many uninsured patients, was in doubt.  The Grady situation seems to have taken a better turn, but this editorial about the situation highlights other hospitals that have shut down, “Philadelphia General Hospital in Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia General Hospital in Washington, the Martin Luther King Hospital in Los Angeles.”  

Most recently, SSM St. Francis Hospital and Health Center in Blue Island, Ill., announced it is closingUnpaid patient bills seem to be the culprit.

Two of the most regulated U.S. industries have more than a few things in common.  Although the situations may be similar, the solutions are going to be different.  Some sort of insurance reform needs to happen in the near future to prevent more closures.  My fear is that the “solution” will come out of panic and necessity and not make the necessary changes to move us toward sustainable health care.

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