D.C.'s hospital troubles demand a new approach
Regarding the Feb. 16 Metro article “D.C. Mayor Gray pulls bill that would’ve let him tap United Medical Center chair”:
The D.C. government is looking for a buyer for United Medical Center, once known as Greater Southeast Community Hospital, which it seized last year in foreclosure. The former operator, an investor-owned hospital chain, bought the failing hospital in 2007 from another for-profit company, which had, in turn, purchased it out of bankruptcy in 1999. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Almost one-quarter of D.C. residents live east of the Anacostia River, and their health-care needs are significant and well known. Most financially viable hospitals rely on insurers that pay at higher rates to make up for some that don’t pay as well. An independent hospital in Southeast lacks that opportunity because so many of its patients are uninsured or have only government coverage, such as Medicaid. That’s why one or more other D.C. hospitals (which are doing quite well) should establish a mix of outpatient and inpatient services at United Medical, in coordination with services elsewhere in the District, to serve Southeast.
The District should consider city hospitals not as an influential lobby and service provider for the suburbs (half of all patients in D.C. hospitals aren’t D.C. residents), but as an industry that needs to better serve all D.C. residents. The District has the regulatory power to force the hospitals to do so.
To use this year’s favorite Hill phrase, I implore the mayor not to “kick the can down the road” again by selling United Medical Center to another out-of-town chain.
The author heads a consulting practice on the cost and quality of medical care and is a senior fellow at Atlas Research, a firm that advises health-care systems.
Mark Legnini, Washington
| February 17, 2011; 10:35 PM ET
Categories: D.C., Vincent Gray, health care
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