21 March 2007

Hospital CEO sees single-payer solution

The Indianapolis Business Journal interviews Robert Brody, the CEO and president of St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers in their March 20 edition. Brody won't actually come out and say that single-payer is the only solution, but he comes damn close.
IBJ: Why do you think it’s wrong to build a for-profit hospital?

BRODY: One of our principal failings, I think, is the emergence of the for-profit hospital and what it does to the existing network of not-for-profit hospitals. In my mind, there is an obligation that we have to provide for the poor and the underserved in our communities. What we are seeing is that this entrepreneurial spirit is undermining the traditional not-for-profit hospital’s ability to serve as the safety net in their community. It erodes our ability to generate the [profit] margin necessary to continue operations in [unprofitable] services. So you find hospitals cutting back....

IBJ: With all these problems, you’ve said in the past that we’re headed for a single-payer health care system, where tax dollars, funneled through the federal government, pay for everyone’s health care.

BRODY: I don’t know that I’ve ever subscribed to a single-payer approach. I think universal health care is something that we need and desperately. How we get there remains to be seen.

IBJ: Actually, during a panel discussion in September 2005, you said, “We have so many vested interests at stake here trying to protect the status quo that the inevitable answer, the ultimate answer, is a single-payer system that takes care of everybody and lets the providers compete for that business as necessary. It works in other countries around the world. It can work here.”

BRODY: Ultimately, I think we’ll end up like the education system. We’ll provide health care services for the entire population. And my guess is, given the nature of our society, we’ll allow for a two-tier system to evolve, where those with means or interest [are] accessing a different model than that available to the mainstream public. It’s a little bit different than the single-payer system. The single-payer is something like the post office [with] no UPS.

IBJ: Do you think that’s the best solution?

BRODY: I don’t know what the best solution is. I’m only one person. I think that there has to be a better solution than we have today. We’re one of two developed nations in the world without universal coverage. That’s a travesty. In effect, we offer health care services for everyone, but they have to access it through the emergency room or some other means. And everyone is paying for it through this cost shift that occurs.

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