Remember hearing that one of the reasons we needed health care reform was to put an end to cost-shifting, that practice of padding someone’s hospital bill to cover “losses” for someone who couldn’t pay?  I remember hearing that mandating coverage for everyone would actually lower our hospital bills by putting an end to this practice.  Those poor hospitals.  All of the big city hospitals going broke from taking care of the “uninsured.”  

From our local paper today:  ”Noisy saws sliced through natural native stones one by one, getting the pieces ready to decorate the walls of Edmond’s $88 million medical complex and wellness center.”  The Sisters of Mercy are 60% of their way to not making even more profits on this facility, one complete with lap swimming, surgery center, work out facility and offices for their employed doctors, all located in the middle of one of the highest per capita income areas in the state of Oklahoma.  Hmmm.  

“Larger stones such as those found across the Oklahoma landscape form a retaining wall that surrounds the building now taking shape,” continues the article.  “We are using a palette of six to seven accent colors,” said David Tew, chief operating officer of Mercy Health System of Oklahoma.  “They are vibrant and soothing.”  “The (lap) pools sit near large windows so swimmers can look outside at a wooded area with large trees.”   

The facility is located on a little over 25 acres on a major interstate highway and is located across the street from a vacant hospital built by another “not for profit” giant.  All of this building is happening down the street from a hospital that merged with the state teaching hospital due to lack of demand.  The teaching hospital (home of the supposedly bankrupt, Level One Trauma Center), paid cash for the struggling Edmond hospital.  

Continuing: “A fountain similar to the one outside the House of Mercy on Baggot Street in Dublin sits at the south entrance.  House of Mercy, a shelter for abandoned and abused women and children from Dublin’s slums, was the start of a ministry that continues today in Sisters of Mercy religious communities around the world.”  These nuns have come a long way, baby.

Ok.  What questions do you have?  How about these:  What sort of abusive billing practices have been inflicted on patients in the Mercy system for a “not for profit” outfit like this to come up with 88 million bucks (keep in mind this is not the only construction project they have going on)?  Think they’ve overdone the cost-shifting thing just a little?  Could it be that their “uninsured burden” was a little exaggerated?  Why are they building in the most affluent part of town?  Why are they building right across the street from their virtually unused competitor’s facility?  How did they pick what services they would offer at this facility (wellness, workout, lap swimming, outpatient surgery, physical therapy, colonoscopy, pain management)?  Does it sound like they’re trying to “not make a profit?”  

1.5 million people file for bankruptcy every year in the U.S.  60% do so because of their medical bills.  78% of those filing bankruptcy for medical bills have insurance.  The average amount over which bankruptcy was filed was about $18,000.  The Sistas of Mercy could therefore have eliminated (or not caused in the first place) the bankruptcy trauma to over 4800 families with the 88 million they’re blowing on their new temple.  But then, they have another mission in mind, don’t they?  

G. Keith Smith, M.D.