Race and Healthcare Examined at Union League Club of Chicago

For over twenty-five years, Robert Kreisman has been a member of Chicago’s Union League Club and has helped support its motto of “commitment to community and country.” As part of its commitment to examining critical social issues, the Union League Club (ULC) hosted a forum examining the role race plays in access to quality healthcare. “Race and Healthcare: Examining the Disparities” featured a panel of doctors who spoke about their observations of the role of race in Chicago’s healthcare system.

The event was moderated by Dr. Terry Mason. Dr. Mason is currently the Chief Medical Officer of the Cook County Health & Hospital System (CCHHS) and post Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. As moderator, Dr. Mason provided a brief history of the disparity that exists in healthcare delivered to different classes of Americans.

He then introduced the two panelists, Dr. Anthony LoSasso and Dr. Carl Bell, who then spoke to the various government policies and clinical considerations that perpetuate the healthcare disparity. Dr. LoSasso serves as a faculty member of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois Chicago. Dr. Bell is an internationally recognized author, lecturer, and psychiatrist who advocates for violence prevention among mental health patients.

The discussion over the role of race and class in the delivery of healthcare services turned a spotlight on local issues during the question and answer portion of the event. One of the audience members asked a question about the state of the Cook County Health System, which in turn led to a discussion about the future of Stroger Hospital of Cook County.

Stroger Hospital has a long history of serving Medicare and Medicaid patients and is therefore considered a “free” hospital by many of the patients it serves. Located in Chicago’s Near West Side, Stroger Hospital serves multiethnic patients, many of which are receiving some form of public aid.

However, the future of Stroger Hospital and similar public hospitals within the Cook County Health System remains uncertain due to the pending healthcare reforms. In 2014, Medicaid and Medicare patients will become eligible to receive services at other hospitals, not just the “free” hospitals they were limited to in the past. Therefore, Stroger Hospital will need to compete with for-profit hospitals like Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Loyola University Medical Center, and Rush University Medical Center.

These reforms could mean that as many as 100,000 patients might be leaving the Cook County Healthy System to receive services at other hospitals. In order for the Cook County Health System to remain viable and survive it needs to maintain its Medicare and Medicaid base. In the coming years, Cook County and other public health systems will need to prepare to compete with their wealthier counterparts and improve their quality of care.

So while “Race and Healthcare: Examining the Disparities” did not provide any concrete answers in the search for providing high quality medical care to all patients, regardless of race or class, it did provide a platform for discussion. The Union League Club’s Public Affairs Committee is dedicated to fostering dialogue around important social issues and will continue to do so not only for healthcare reform, but for other critical topics for Chicago and the larger community.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois medical negligence matters for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Melrose Park, Bridgeview, Elmhurst, Evergreen Park, Joliet, and Frankfort.

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