“I like to speak just before Happy Hour. This is a pretty depressing topic,” Freddie Warner warned the lunchtime crowd at the Golf Club of Houston Nov. 19.
The topic was health care and the event was the Lake Houston Chamber’s annual State of Health Care luncheon. While the topic was gloomy yet enlightening, the program did end on a positive note.
Warner, chief government relations officer at Memorial Hermann, began his presentation with dire statistics for the group.
“You’re living in Texas, a state with the greatest number of uninsured, 21 percent,” he said. “You’re living in Houston, a city with the highest number of uninsured, 23 percent.”
“We’re ferocious competitors,” Warner said, looking at John Corbeil, CEO of HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood, who also spoke, “but we’re working together on this issue in Austin and in Washington because it affects both of our organizations, the two largest health care organizations in the City.”
Warner praised Texas State Senator Dan Huberty, who was present, and Congressman Dan Crenshaw for their willingness to discuss health care issues and the current bipartisan effort to resolve what Warner termed the health care crisis in the United States.
In addition to the number of uninsured, Warner singled out aging Baby Boomers who are transitioning into Medicare at the rate of 11,000 Boomers a day.
“Look at how many workers were paying into Social Security when it was set up in the 1930s,” he said, “and look at how many workers are paying into Medicare when it was created in 1965, and then, look at how many fewer workers are paying into both programs. When you factor the Veterans Administration into this, our health care is under water.”
Warner cited the EMTALA act, a federal law requiring all Emergency Centers to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay, as one reason for the high cost of health care.
“To each employer in this room, do you realize that, if you provide health insurance, $1,800 to $2,000 is added to your cost for each employee to offset the cost for providing health care to the uninsured,” Warner said.
Politicians don’t want to make any changes because health care is such a volatile issue that it can be successfully used by both parties, Warner said.
Corbeil, the HCA Kingwood CEO agreed that healthcare is confusing.
“My entire family, except for one brother, is or has been in health care, and we find it very confusing,” Corbeil said. “At HCA, we’re trying to simplify health care. We’ve unified our brand across the United States and, with our London hospital, we’re an international health care system.”
HCA Healthcare is focusing on four areas, Corbeil said, quality, cost, access and experience.
“Experience isn’t something that health care organizations have concentrated on but, as you know, we ask our neighbor their opinion about where they would go,” he said. “Experience determines who we choose. Access is important, too, which is why we’re moving out of the hospital and bringing care to our new urgent care center in Kingwood as well as the facilities we’ve opened in Fall Creek and in Cleveland.”
There will be no December Chamber luncheon. The Elected Officials Reception will be held Friday, Dec. 13, 8:30 a.m. at the Golf Club of Kingwood 5860 Wilson Road. State Senator Dan Huberty and Houston City Council Member Dave Martin will be honored for their pro-growth, pro-business legislation and initiatives with the Chamber’s first Spirit of the Chamber award. Attendees will have the opportunity to speak-one-on-one with their elected officials and staff. To register, lakehouston.org.