Saturday, October 13, 2007

Heathcare in Independence

Heathcare in Independence

My mother was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital. This incident resulted in my first visit to the new Centerpoint hospital in Independence. Here are a few of my initial observations.

1) I've always been amused by the hospital name. At one point they were going to call it the "Independence Regional Medical Center" to combine the names of Medical Center of Independence and Independence Regional Hospital (the two facilities that were closed to make room for the new facility). Instead, they named it Centerpoint. Obviously, some marketing or P.R. whiz-kid came up with this name. Since the hospital is about as far south and as far east as one can get and still remain in Independence, "Centerpoint" makes about as much sense as naming a community college "Blue River" when it is about 20 miles east of the Blue River. But I digress. Clearly, those who make such decisions heard the complaints and concerns of people in north and west Independence about the closing of their two hospitals. Rather than establishing urgent care at the old IRH or MCI, they just decided to give the new hospital a name that might suggest that is was "in the middle." Good work, folks!

2) Okay, most Americans (including me) are technically obese by medical standards. With more and more people overweight and in need of exercise, healthcare costs continue to explode. So, how does the new hospital address this development? First, they have valet parking so people visiting the hospital don't have to walk from the parking lot. Second, they have several menu options for patients, including fried chicken fingers, cheesecake, and the like. And, you can call down to have food sent to your room any time. Frankly, this seemed more like a cruise ship than a wellness center.

3) I always thought it was funny on the television show, "Scrubs" when Dr. Kelso installed a Starbucks-like coffee bar in their hospital to maximize profits. Should I have been surprised to see a full line, Starbucks-like coffee bar right inside the front door? I guess I shouldn't have, but I was! Isn't it funny how art imitates life? I've always said that Scrubs didn't gain the popular acceptance it should have because you just aren't allowed to poke fun at doctors and hospitals. Those "ER" and "Grey's Anatomy" supporters just didn't get the joke. Clearly, the people at Centerpoint didn't get it either!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Petitions in Missouri

Petitions in Missouri

I just got back from the Missouri Library Association annual meeting. The Legislative Committee sponsored a program on TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) initiatives in Missouri. I've written about TABOR before. My personal feeling is that TABOR, as a legislative issue, is likely dead. While the Missouri House passed TABOR in the 2007 session, there doesn't seem to be any interest in taking it up in the Senate. As long as the Senate doesn't take up TABOR, that avenue is dead. The real potential problem is with citizen petitions to create TABOR as a constitutional amendment. Here's the problem.

The initiative petition process in Missouri (and maybe everyplace) is broken. Petitions are being collected, not by engaged citizens, but by people who are paid to collect signatures. These collectors may come from other states and may not be fully informed on the topic. Since they are paid by the signature, the petitioners will say anything to collect one more name. I've been told stories about petitioners harassing signers. In fact, our library had to have a petitioner arrested at one of our branches for her aggressive collection of signatures in violation of library policy.

My favorite story is a situation that occurred in Columbia, Missouri. Several people were being paid by the signature to gain signatures for two separate issues. The petitioners would ask people to sign the front of the clipboard to put a popular issue on the ballot. Then, the petitioner would flip the clipboard and ask for a second signature to "verify" the other signature. The problem? The "verification" signature was actually for the other petition and was for a less well accepted issue. People are being mislead about what they are signing. Mostly because the people who are collecting the signatures are doing so for money, not due to a dedication to the issue.

When people tried to put TABOR on the ballot in Missouri, petition signature collectors frequently told people that TABOR would allow people to vote on tax increases. One problem. The Missouri Constitution, through the Hancock Amendment (I and II) already assure that people are to vote on tax increases. Whether the collectors don't understand Missouri's constitution, or whether they are just saying something popular to gain more signatures is irrelevant. The point is that the process has been corrupted.

Something has to be done to put the initiative petition back in the hands of the people.