King discusses and signs his book, A Spirit of Charity, which makes the case that public hospitals represent more than a frayed safety net for the poor; they have become a safety valve for the nation’s highly profitable health industrial complex. Indeed, these special places allow that system to thrive even if they themselves are too often denied the same opportunity.
King has the credentials to address this subject. He was an award-winning reporter, Washington correspondent, science and medicine editor and opinion writer for the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He writes a health policy blog called Failure to Thrive that can be found at commentonhealth.com.
Informing this book are these ideas:
Over the years Grady Memorial in Atlanta – the focus of A Spirit of Charity – has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s best teaching hospitals. But it also was a place so rife with political mismanagement that it nearly had to close its doors in 2007.
Many of Grady’s counterparts around the country – iconic places we know by their first names like County in Chicago, Parkland in Dallas, Jackson in Miami – have been through similar turning points and survived. Yet how these hospitals operate, who pays for them and how they fit into the nation’s $3 trillion-a-year health care system, is a mystery to most of us.
In a country that has yet to determine whether access to basic medical care is a right or an earned privilege, these hospitals bear the burden of that indecision. The people who show up in their emergency rooms and clinics represent the gaping holes, the ill-conceived compromises and the unintended consequences resulting from decades of attempts to reform health care in our country.
Even after the Affordable Care Act – subject to so much litigation and ideological obstruction – millions of Americans have been left behind, especially in the South, where most states have turned their backs on billions of dollars in federal money the act includes to better serve the poor.