The Chicago Sun-Times has an article that exposes just what sorts of things Michelle Obama did for the University Of Chicago Hospital to earn her $317,000 salary as “Vice President for Community and External Affairs.” And despite the tone of the article, I’m fairly impressed.
One of the biggest problems hospitals face is the sheer number of people who use their emergency rooms as their primary-care centers. People with all sorts of emergencies but no health insurance show up at the ERs, clogging up the system and racking up bills the hospital will most likely end up writing off. It’s gotten so bad in some places that some hospitals have just shut down their ERs as too expensive to maintain.
Well, Mrs. Obama got the idea of setting up a network of doctors in the neighborhood who would see and treat these people, instead of having them show up at ERs. She worked with several other people in the hospital, two of whom are also advisors to her husband’s campaign, and they hired a PR firm run by another Obama advisor to “sell” the program to the community.
Yeah, there is a whiff of a bad odor of croniness here (I am especially impressed at how the Sun-Times managed to work Tony Rezko into the story), but I’m going to disagree with John McCain and say that this program, as described, was a good idea. It wasn’t about denying health care to poor people, it was about getting them care in a more cost-efficient and appropriate manner. The hospital wasn’t dumping its poor patients on other hospitals or clinics, it was arranging for them to get the attention they needed in ways that wouldn’t impair its own emergency room operations.
Also, you gotta remember that this is Chicago. By Chicago standards, this is squeaky-clean. The only thing that has a real possibility of corruption is in hiring David Axelrod’s firm to do the “selling.” Axelrod, in addition to owning the PR firm, is also Obama’s top political strategist.
A lot of Obama’s policies strike me as potentially disastrous, and his plans for health care reform are no exception. I think we’ll be in for a very rough four years if he gets elected.
But in this case, it seems his wife was involved in a health care reform move that makes a lot of sense, and could not only improve care for those most in need of basic services, but save money all around. It’s the kind of thing that we should be experimenting with, trying out and seeing how well it works. It strikes me as a common-sense plan, a possibly good solution to a building crisis. (If only we could say the same about so many of her husband’s notions…)
I’d even go so far to say that, for the first time in my adult life, I’m proud to share a nationality with Michelle Obama.