Editor's Note: For more information on President Obama's healthcare reform package, please refer to Bryant Witt's article, Healthcare Reform Under the Obama Administration.
(L-R) Nancy Anness, VP Advocacy for STHS; Congressman Jim Cooper; Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Susan Cooper; Patrick Madden, Interim CEO for STHS.
Saint Thomas Health Services recently brought in one of its most prominent "satisfied" customers to provide an update on the nation's healthcare scene under the new administration. Representative Jim Cooper, who was born in the hospital and treated for cancer at Saint Thomas as an adult, served as keynote speaker for a program entitled "The Critical State of Health Care: Today in Nashville and Tomorrow in Washington.
The event, which was held at the Medical Learning Center at Saint Thomas on February 20th, also featured comments from the Tennessee Commissioner of Health Susan Cooper, MSN, RN, and Nancy Anness, MSN, APN, vice president of advocacy for STHS, who directs the system's 100 Percent Campaign.
Ascension Health—The 100 Percent Campaign
By KELLY PRICE
Saint Thomas Health Services –– as a member the nation's largest nonprofit healthcare system, Ascension Health –– is working to develop a healthcare delivery system that is accessible, affordable, safe, and leads to good health through its 100 Percent Campaign.
As hospitals across the country strive to meet the increasing needs of their patients, especially those who lack access to healthcare, STHS has responded with this non-partisan, collaborative effort setting the goal of achieving 100 percent coverage and 100 percent access for all citizens by the year 2020. The campaign is based on six basic principles: fairness, affordability, coverage of pre-existing conditions, attention to the poor and vulnerable, insurance reforms that create equity and economically viable healthcare models.
The campaign is tied to a core element of the STHS mission by providing healthcare that leaves no one behind with a solution that:
- meets all persons equally;
- covers the poor and vulnerable who face serious gaps in their care;
- develops accessible insurance options that are affordable; and
- is a viable and reliable system of care for years to come.
The 100 Percent campaign was developed out of interviews with more than 100 of Nashville's healthcare leaders in the public and private sectors and with policymakers and caregivers. Responses to key questions designed to identify the unmet needs of the uninsured and underinsured population uncovered four key challenges:
- specialty care access,
- behavioral health needs,
- after hours care, and
- dental services.
STHS is working to fill many of these gaps already with programs such as: Saint Thomas/Baptist/Hickman Health Centers,
which has six locations. The Dispensary of Hope,
a network of not-for-profit dispensing sites that provides medication to people without prescription drug coverage. Bridges to Care,
a program of the Safety Net Consortium of Middle Tennessee managed by the Metropolitan Public Health Department, which has enrolled over 44,000 uninsured patients since February, 2002.
After an introduction by Patrick Madden, interim CEO for STHS, Cooper noted that, as a member of Congress, he has the security of knowing that he will get good medical care, but there are 12-15 million "hard core" uninsured Americans who live outside the medical safety net and without the peace of mind that members of Congress and other citizens with insurance have.
Cooper called the uninsured situation, which leads to at least 18,000 unnecessary deaths per year, "an economic and moral disaster, because we are the only advanced nation on earth that has this problem." He added that he feels the healthcare dilemma is "a solvable problem."
Cooper is currently lead co-sponsor of the bipartisan Wyden-Bennett Healthy Americans Act which calls for universal health insurance that would be funded by savings generated from a rewired, more efficient, healthcare system. He pointed out that the bill "had not yet been smiled upon" by the Obama Administration and Congressional leaders even though it is completely non-partisan and is "already drafted, and scored on by the CBO." He added, the bill is based on hardcore data from sources such as the Dartmouth Group that show how much waste there is in the current system. Cooper also recommended the audience read the book "Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer
," by Sharon Brownlee.
He pointed out the New York Times has speculated the title of the Healthy Americans Act might be changed to include Senator Ted Kennedy's name, which … the paper opined... would increase the legislation's visibility and chances of passing. "We're happy to turn it over," Cooper said of the bill's sponsors.
Calling the act "the real deal," Cooper said the bill provides an alternative to the employer-based system that currently prevails. He noted it is a way to open up and share the efficiency and benefits of a market-tested system, adding that "this is a magic moment in history — now is the time to muster the enthusiasm of a new era in politics."
Cooper said the record crowd that stood in freezing weather to attend President Obama's inauguration was the largest crowd ever to assemble in American history –– statistically, one out of every 1,000 Americans was represented by the crowd. The number and enthusiasm of those gathered encourages Cooper to believe that reform of this magnitude and significance can be achieved.
Cooper observed the nation seems to have a serious dialogue about healthcare reform about every 20 years, and he feels that "this is the year — one that provides a better opportunity than in the Clinton years" to achieve a legislative solution for healthcare coverage.
The meeting continued with remarks by Commissioner Susan Cooper, who spoke about the Primary Care Safety Net, established by the state to create an infrastructure of care across the state's 95 counties on a sliding fee-for-care basis. In its first year, more than 600,000 Tennesseans were treated under this program.
The Safety Net is poised to provide more comprehensive and innovative programs such as a dental safety net and telemedicine initiatives, including digital retinal screening. The Safety Net will also expand to include mental health and specialty care for the uninsured, as well as access to name brand drugs.
She pointed to the successes of Project Diabetes, a statewide initiative formed in response to the epidemic of diabetes; smoking cessation programs; and Step Up, an exercise-based program founded on an ancient African step dance, as examples of what has been achieved in the state.
Commissioner Cooper insisted that there is now a unique opportunity to improve healthcare for all in the context of their community and a belief "in the art of the possible."
She concluded, "There is not a reason that the United States cannot become the healthiest country in the world."
In her outreach work for STHS, Nancy Anness directs the regional efforts of Ascension Health's 100 Percent campaign, a non-partisan initiative seeking a collaborative approach to achieving 100 percent coverage and 100 percent access to care for all citizens. (See sidebar.