By ASEEM R. SHUKLA, MD
The impending closure of Hahnemann University Hospital is a local tragedy. Eliminating a 170-year old institution is certain to exaggerate the daily travails of the economically disadvantaged inner-city population that Hahnemann serves as a safety-net hospital. The closure is also a national tragedy. Hospitals are the towering, visible monuments of our healthcare system, and closings imply that something insidious ails that very system—that all is not well.
Hospitals are complex entities with varied financial drivers, and the solution is never simple. And the moment is too rich for politicians who see Hahnemann’s failure as the culmination of their dystopian predictions. Bernie Sanders, most prominently, stood on the hospital’s doorstep and pitched his deceptively simple solution—Medicare for All. Medicare for All, Sanders said, would ensure that every patient carries the same coverage, hospitals are paid a predictable rate, and voila, no hospitals need to close. Private insurance would disappear, and no one would be without coverage.
Even physicians have jumped on the Medicare for All bandwagon. Some doctors insist that once profit is removed as a motive for hospital bottom lines, and government bodies decide which hospitals can buy a surgical robot, build a new wing or offer proton beam treatment cancer treatment centers, then all hospitals will do better.
But these arguments miss a fundamental point: why pitch government insurance for all, like Medicare and Medicaid (a federal and state insurance plan to cover low income adult and children) as a remedy, when it is precisely government-run insurance that is killing Hahnemann and other hospitals in distress?Continue reading…