The health care industry is sick, and we're our own cure


Get out your tennis shoes and knee braces and block off some time, because we are in a health care crisis and the best advice may be to take the bull by the horns.

In the last month, Blessing Health System pulled up "anchor" as State Rep. Martin Graber said, and left Keokuk without much of glance back.

Then the very next week, they laid off 150 employees in the system.

CEO Maureen Kahn said the reduction in force was “in response to rising business costs caused by inflation and challenges specific to the health care industry that are reducing reimbursement and changing patient demand for care.”

That's business 101 for "We're not making enough money."

Welp.... They brought on a new COO, Brian Canfield, in January, and he's certainly having an impact on local health care services.

Canfield was the one who told Lee County that Blessing wouldn't subsidize a county EMS service to any degree, after Kahn said the hospital foundation should contribute to the county ambulance service, which now is saddled with being essentially a mobile ER.

We know who wears the pants in that organization.

Several corporate staffers, including Kathy Hull, the chief of rural hospitals for Blessing, said the company wanted to be part of the solution, not the problem.

The county is to be commended for absorbing the costs, but ultimately the taxpayers may be asked to pony up to keep the system solvent.

On Friday, at about 2 p.m., Great River Health System CEO Matt Wenzel resigned from the system. We're hearing it may have been more than a resignation, but the hospital was 'mum' aside from a brief press statement released Friday.

On Jan. 1, 2024, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) will implement a definition for "lowest possible reimbursement rate" on Part D drug coverages. That will, in all likelihood, force pharmaceutical enterprises to charge more for those drugs.

That's a bit complicated, but will be felt at the point of sale.

So, what does all this mean.

Really, from the time Obamacare was implemented, health care has been in a state of decline. The policy itself was meritorious, but what was forgotten in the mix was that corporations were going to protect their bottom line, so the cost of insuring families went through the roof.

Employers shifted gears and focused on taking care of just their employees and not their employees' families, because the cost of doing that skyrocketed as the government tried to move masses to the health care marketplace.

The real answer lies in taking better care of ourselves. Covid has taught us to wash our hands more and be cognizant of those sick around us.

But with health care shifting gears and downsizing, the best answer is to take better care of yourself.

Eat healthier. And that's a wicked cycle, because for some reason groceries and food suppliers charge more for healthier options. Seen the price of grapes lately? Almost $7 a bag! And grapes are one of the best things you can eat to curb appetites.

Shifting to healthier proteins, (you know - the fewer legs the better?) isn't cheap either. One of my favorite things is blackened salmon. Put that with some shaved brussels roasted with olive oil, red pepper flake, and a little salt and pepper, and you've got a nice meal with heavy Omega-3 fats, which are good for you.

But a good piece of salmon is now in high demand and that price is going through the roof.

Grocers should switch and make the junk food the more expensive option. They would generate more money. Many of my friends and family will hate this, but beer should be more expensive. We did it with tobacco.

People will drink less, just like they are driving less due to gas prices, and smoke less due to the cost.

Why are healthier options the more expensive option? We should encourage healthier eating by reducing the price and those that want the Ho-Hos and potato chips and candy bars should pay more for those.

An orange should be cheap, grapes should be cheaper. Yes, it's all based on supply and when supplies run low, prices climb, but I haven't seen a shortage of grapes on the shelves. I've seen more. The meat counter always has nice displays of salmon and chicken and turkey. The price just keeps climbing.

Cost of transportation is in there as well. I get all the pieces, but wouldn't putting a surtax on donuts help offset some of the costs associated with the manufacturers' increased costs, and curb the amount of people eating donuts?

England has a surtax on desserts to discourage consumption. Like a cigarette tax discourages smoking. That industry is doing okay.

We go through fast food drive-thrus and the prices keep rising - so don't go. It used to be a cheaper option, but it's not really, anymore. Fire up the grill and make your own cheeseburger.

Then it comes to exercise. I'm noticing in my older age that smaller bursts of exercise are having more of a noticeable impact than 60 minutes at the gym three or four times a week.

I have bands and a yoga mat. I did one exercise 108 times and it felt like I was trying to lift a car — and I was using no weights at all.

I've been battling back pain for about six months now and what's helping relieve what has been described as a disc "anomaly" that spasms my sciatic horribly, is strengthening my core.

So I found my abs again. They were hiding under about 20 years of pizza and beer. I still have a ways to go, but I'm at my high school weight. It's shifted a bit, but we're getting there.

My blood pressure has been better these past four weeks than it's been in two years. And I'm going through a divorce and the loss of a child.

Exercise and healthy eating isn't about moving mountains. It's just about taking steps and maybe taking them a little quicker than normal.

It's about blocking off time to cook something a bit healthier and avoiding all the junk. You don't have to eliminate it, we all need a Cheez-It every now and then, or a Peanut M&M, but moderation works just fine.

My daughter Taylor tells me to take a handful and not sit down with the box, or a bag. That works. But she's also dead set against a Little Debbie tax. No taxation without dessert representation.

But the direction of health care is ominous and leadership will be the salvation. In the meantime, lace up your shoes, engage your body, and bypass the dessert cake aisle and candy sections.

And do not go to the store hungry. That's a killer, but that's Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Beside the Point, opinion, editorial, chuck vandenberg, health care, Keokuk, exercise, tax,


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  • Susanstanton

    Excellent! Well said and absolutely True!

    Sunday, October 16, 2022 Report this