Remember back on October when the New York Times spent 36 hours in Richmond? Well, it seems the folks in the Big Apple are still pretty interested in what we’re up to. In an article published yesterday, David Leonhardt examined the current state of our health care system. At the heart of the health care […]
Remember back on October when the New York Times spent 36 hours in Richmond?
Well, it seems the folks in the Big Apple are still pretty interested in what we’re up to.
In an article published yesterday, David Leonhardt examined the current state of our health care system.
At the heart of the health care debate is the question of whether it’s possible to cut medical costs without harming patients. What has happened here in Richmond helps to answer that question.
Since 1996, the Richmond area has lost more than 600 of its hospital beds, mostly because of state regulations on capacity. Several hospitals have closed, and others have shrunk. In 1996, the region had 4.8 hospital beds for every 1,000 residents. Today, it has about three. Hospital care has been, in a word, rationed.
Neither the House health reform bill nor the Senate version would impose any such reductions on the nation’s hospitals. But the basic idea behind the bills’ cost-control measures is similar. They would try to slow the growth of medical treatments, be it through new rules for Medicare, a Cadillac tax on the costliest insurance plans or other measures.
So take a glimpse at what our future may look like:
The quality of care in Richmond is better than in most American metropolitan areas, according to various measures, and it continues to improve. Medicare data, for example, shows that Richmond hospitals do a better-than-average job of treating heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia.
When I recently asked patients in Richmond whether they felt as if their care had been rationed, they found the question bizarre. “I feel like there’s nothing cheap about the care,” Janet Binns, a retired school district employee, said. After her elderly father fell down one morning, she e-mailed a doctor and was on the phone with him in minutes.
Yet when it comes to health care costs, Richmond’s rationing has made a clear difference. In 1992, it spent somewhat less than average, per capita, on Medicare — 126th lowest out of 305 metropolitan areas nationwide. Since then, though, costs have risen at a significantly slower pace than they have elsewhere. As a result, Richmond had the 39th lowest costs in 2006.