Cost reduction, of course, is a key component. Most people, average consumers, business owners, politicians, and media, have been focused on the cost of health insurance. Given the doubling of premiums during the past 10 years and another doubling projected for the next decade, that’s understandable. But how many average people realized just how much delivery of health care services will have to change to help get to those cost reductions?
That’s what made Tuesday’s session so enlightening, promising, and unsettling at the same time. Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, the 800-pound gorilla of health care services in the area, will be going through some significant changes. Even the folks who run SVMC don’t know exactly what will change, or how those changes will come about.
That’s the unsettling part. To meet mandates that require a 3% cap on revenue, SVMC will have to make hard decisions about what health care services they may offer in the future. Until those decisions are made, many here in the Deerfield Valley who depend on certain services will be left in a bit of limbo. Will their needs continue to be met locally, or will they have to travel farther afield, perhaps out of state, to receive the same treatment?
On the other hand, we may see more services offered locally, perhaps even in our own homes. There may be a return to the country doctor or the town nurse, who visit homes when someone is sick or in need of continuing care. There may be many things to like about the coming changes, and we appear to be lucky that the Deerfield Valley health center is out in front on much of the mandated changes.
The problem is, we just don’t know. No one likes uncertainty, especially when it comes to health care. What is certain is that health care delivery in Vermont is going to change. Some of that change may be radical. As with any significant change, there are often unintended consequences.
In many ways, the health care train is headed around a blind curve and into a tunnel. What waits at the other end? No one really knows. We just hope there is nothing to make that train jump its track. It’s a wreck no one wants to see.