MDH CEO Applauds Health Care Overhaul

Macomb, IL – The nation is reacting to the U.S. House passage of the health care reform package, expected to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama later this week. Opinions are deeply divided, but McDonough District Hospital President/CEO Stephen Hopper says it's good legislation.

Hopper says he's thrilled that 32 million more people across the nation will have access to more affordable health insurance. An estimate from Congressman Phil Hare's office says more than 350,000 people in the 17th congressional district alone will experience improved coverage.

Hopper says this will help MDH's bottom line because more patients will have insurance. Hopper says that will be a welcome change, because the amount of patients relying on Medicare and Medicaid is increasing.

"Neither Medicare nor Medicaid provide coverage or payment as significant as a private insurance company does," says Hopper.

He says about 10.7 percent of MDH's patients so far this year rely on Medicaid, whereas 8.5 percent of patients used the benefit last year.

Hopper worries about the quality of private health insurance patients will buy once the provisions in the federal legislation take effect.

"I think the new coverage will undoubtedly bring us more patients that have coverage," says Hopper. "Unfortunately, I think it will bring us more patients who have coverage that don't cover our complete cost of providing care."

Despite that possibility, Hopper says facing patients with such insurance plans is better than the alternative: facing significant health care funding shortfalls due to state and federal budget woes.

Hopper recognizes that McDonough District Hospital's service area faces a serious problem, which could be magnified by the new legislation. Doctors are leaving Macomb, which can make finding a primary care physician difficult. He says more insured people means more patients, which means doctors offices could be stretched even thinner.

But Hopper says the MDH has been aggressively seeking new doctors for a while, and has successfully recruited a new family care physician, Dr. Erica Rotondo, that will start in April. He also says a new pediatrician will start later this year, but will not get into specifics just yet. He says the offices need time to prepare for the impending influx of phone calls to schedule appointments.

Hopper says the hospital sends out e-mail blasts, recruits heavily at career fairs, and sends out tens of thousands of mailers each year. He says MDH is "already doing everything it can" to recruit more doctors to the area. He doesn't anticipate the hospital doing any more than it already is.