I recently wrote a story about the economic benefits of having vital hospitals and health care services. The headline was "Health industry has big influence on local, state economies."
The story pointed out that they create a lot of jobs and attract retirees and other businesses.
After the story was published in the Lawrence Journal-World and on LJWorld.com, Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, the state health officer, sent me an e-mail.
He brought up some very good points that I wanted to share with YOU.
His hope is that hospitals and health care services do NOT take up such a large chunk of our economy. His hope is that Kansans become healthier and, therefore, do not need so many services. His hope is that we spend LESS on chronic diseases AND MORE on things like education.
Here is what Eberhart-Phillips had to say:
“Thanks for presenting the local facts and figures on the economic impact of the health care system in Douglas County earlier this week as part of your coverage of the recently released report funded by the Kansas Hospital Association. I have a great deal of respect for the professionals and administrators who keep our health care system going under tremendous pressure from all sides.
“But one thing missing from the report, and from the LJW's upbeat presentation of the economic benefits of having the system we have, is how this one strong sector in our economy is steadily consuming everything else that we as a society may want to invest our resources in. Your front-page spread documents well the degree to which our whole economy, both locally and across the country, is becoming centered on the treatment of disease, much of it disease that is preventable through simple public health interventions.
“As a community we are becoming sicker, and the provision of our medical care is steadily becoming the single largest cost to the community’s pocketbook. Far from the cheery landscape described in the LJW’s story, the mounting demand for the care of preventable diseases is causing a significant drain on our collective wealth, particularly when you compare what our country spends per capita on medical care to every other nation on earth.
“When millions of dollars must be cut this year from the Lawrence schools budget, it should be noted that one of the biggest reasons is the uncontrolled cost of health care for the district’s employees and their dependents. And what is the single largest driver of that increased cost for every employer but the ever-growing burden of chronic diseases might easily have been prevented. Every dollar of our collective productivity that must be allocated to sickness care for preventable diseases is a dollar that cannot be spent improving our troubled schools, helping our ailing universities, repairing our crumbling infrastructure or reversing our steadily declining investments in science and technology.
“Every dollar diverted to ever-increasing health insurance premiums is one dollar less to boost wages and improve the overall standard of living in Douglas County.
“My hope for Kansas is a future where health care spending accounts for a much smaller slice of the economic pie than it does today, thanks to the lower demand for care that will result from a stronger commitment to disease prevention throughout the community.
“Far from being the heart of the economy, our disease care system should actually be a less pivotal player in the life of our community, and in the lives of its healthy, vibrant people.”