Unfair criticism, the uninsured, and health care realities

The University of Chicago Medical Center is drawing criticism over a “strategy to steer poor and uninsured patients with less serious injuries to other facilities to focus on treating the most challenging cases,” especially from the non-profit sheriff Senator Chuck Grassley according to the Chicago Tribune.

Meanwhile, newly appointed Grady Memorial Hospital CEO Michael Young took a swipe at Atlanta-area hospitals saying “I think the other hospitals need to do a gut check on their missions, and see if they’re doing their fair share,” at a recent news conference reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

We all know hospitals that fulfill their non-profit missions daily; and we all know hospitals that could improve.  Our health care system presents difficulties in treating patients who are not properly insured.  Non-profit or not, hospitals need to keep their doors open.  Whether it is a new strategy to treat uninsured patients outside of the emergency department or a plea to other leaders to help carry the load, hospitals are increasingly pursuing new efforts to sustain themselves.

The realty is that most hospitals try to limit the number of uninsured patients they care for—it’s happening in every metropolitan area throughout the United States.  Some try harder than others.  Some are more transparent in their efforts than the rest.

Whether you consider what the University of Chicago Medical Center is doing is right or wrong, the problem with the criticism is this: the reason they have come under fire is because they have been transparent in their efforts.  We know about what they are doing because they have openly communicated it.  Being singled out is wrong when there’s evidence of the practice elsewhere.

Further, any investigation into whether or not UCMC is properly carrying out its mission and taking care of the necessary number of uninsured patients does nothing to solve our problem of millions of uninsured Americans and their poor access to necessary health care.