Earlier this month, the 20th rural hospital in Texas closed its doors. More than ever, all Texas hospitals need to work together to protect our industry but, more importantly, access to high quality care for all Texans, no matter their zip code. The following is a reprint of an article I wrote for the Winter 2018 Rural Matters magazine, at the generous invitation of TORCH’s president/CEO John Henderson, that reminds us of the importance of a shared mission and purpose.
United we stand. Divided we fall.
The provenance of that phrase is lost to history. Some say it comes from the ancient Greek fabulist Aesop; others attribute it to the Book of Matthew in the New Testament. Today, it is the motto for the state of Kentucky.
Its uncertain origins and uses throughout the long course of history tell me of its power. The message resonates across time, across cultures, across languages because it is so powerful. Its message is simple, clear and direct and in many ways, obvious. But because human nature is competitive and sometimes self-serving and becomes more so when resources are limited, we need that reminder that the only way to succeed is by banding together.
I don’t think that’s ever been more true for Texas hospitals.
Many hospitals feel besieged. They feel at war fighting for the resources needed just to keep their doors open and serve their communities. And, in many ways, those resources are getting fewer and fewer, and the competition for them is getting more fierce. Medicare reimbursement is below cost. Medicaid reimbursement is well below cost. The future of supplemental payments and the financing mechanism that is their foundation are uncertain. Even the basics of hospital financing and operations are not well understood by the majority of individuals who pass the laws and write the regulations that govern our work.
At the same time, there’s a lot of voices clamoring for lawmakers’ attention in the forthcoming 86th Texas Legislature and in the 116th U.S. Congress. And these voices come from all over, not just health care. Every industry needs more funding, wants less regulation. Every industry thinks their work is the most important. Every industry engages in politics and public policy.
For these reasons, Texas hospitals need to be vocal and consistent and frequent in our communications and engagement with lawmakers and not shy away from talking about hospital operations and finances and what all Texas hospitals need to be sustainable in order to provide the very best patient care.
All Texas hospitals.
Like cats, it is true that if you’ve seen one hospital, you’ve seen one hospital. A hospital serving the community of Muleshoe is very different from that serving the Dallas metroplex. But at their core, they are the same. They have exactly the same mission. Save lives. Heal people. Promote health.
Our strength is in that core similarity. If we let our adjectives – rural, urban, children’s, specialty, etc. – divide us, then we fall.
Let’s join together around the shared priority of engaging with our elected officials and explaining the importance of hospitals in all of our communities. For our financial health and well-being but, more importantly, for the health and well-being of all Texans.