Dr. Ram Raju, CEO, Cook County Health and Hospital Systems, Focuses on the Affordable Care Act
The United States Supreme Court upheld the vast majority of the Affordable Care Act. This is a momentous decision for our patients and for healthcare in this Country. In Washington D.C., they recently unveiled a beautiful monument to one of this Country’s great leaders: Martin Luther King, Jr. Among his famous quotes chiseled on the walls of his monument is one that is particularly appropriate for this occasion: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.” In upholding the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court has gone a long way in removing that injustice. I happened to be meeting with a group of our Health System’s providers when the decision was announced. It was truly heartwarming to hear the celebratory shouts from our colleagues and, later, to see the smiles on the faces of staff as I walked through Stroger Hospital. As the people on the forefront of delivering care to this most vulnerable patient population, you especially appreciate the impact this remarkable decision has on our patients’ ability to access quality care. The Cook County public hospital system is one of the oldest and largest public hospital systems in the nation and has provided medical care for those most in need since the 19th century. Ratification of the Affordable Care Act by the Supreme Court means that tens of millions of our neighbors without health insurance now will have coverage and access to affordable medical care. Before Medicaid and Medicare were instituted in the United States in the 1960’s, public hospitals like ours were the primary providers of healthcare to the poor. Nearly 50 years later, Cook County and other great urban safety providers found their viability threatened by the crushing demands of the uninsured seeking increasingly costly medical care. After implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many uninsured will remain, and our mission must remain intact. However, tens of thousands of our current patients, as well as hundreds of thousands of others in Illinois, will now be eligible for Medicaid coverage and other subsidized insurance plans. While I recognize that the Affordable Care Act has bred controversy, legal and otherwise, the Act’s expansion of coverage for the medically indigent, and its furthering of primary care and preventative models of care are to be applauded. Today’s Supreme Court decision will now permit these reforms to move forward. CCHHS will proceed with renewed vigor to implement the system-wide reforms necessary to institute patient centered medical homes for all of our patients. This will significantly improve our patients’ access to quality, cost efficient care. Lastly, we will continue to seek federal approval of our Section 1115 Waiver proposal to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that would permit us to enroll new Medicaid eligibles under the Affordable Care Act as soon as this summer, instead of waiting for January, 2014. I look forward to working together as we transform our Health System to meet the incredible opportunities presented by the Affordable Care Act.