A Publication of WTVP

The number-one reason I love the work I do is the wide range of people and businesses with whom I work. Our Chamber of Commerce represents every sector of our economy and community, so it is not uncommon for different sectors to hold different opinions regarding very important topics. Whenever our committees and Board of Directors determine it is appropriate to take public positions, we do so. These decisions are not taken lightly, and we adhere to a process aimed at gathering input from our membership and parties involved.

I find this process to be a very healthy experience for the interested parties. For me, the disagreement and debate within the process are natural—and lead to the best result. More importantly, it creates an opportunity for the players to explore the situation in ways they may not have previously considered.

Unfortunately, I too often see the debate process break down quickly as it becomes based on emotion, and walls are built between opposing sides. I do not know if there is a current subject more divisive than this month’s focus on healthcare. Sitting down to write on this topic, my mind immediately became lost in the politics surrounding it. Healthcare has become such a predictable topic of debate, a political football immersed in all of the approved “talking points” to scare voters, one way or the other.

The overarching thread is that healthcare is the most emotional challenge we face. Therefore, in my view, healthcare stands as the most difficult issue to resolve.

I know everyone reading has their own thoughts regarding the state of healthcare in America, but since only one of us can write this column, let’s use me as an example. I am a 46-year-old Chamber president with a job I enjoy immensely and great access to healthcare. I’m also a husband, a father, a son, an employer and a friend to many who must consistently navigate the system. And more often than not, the stories are not good.

My mom can’t figure out her new Medicare referral rule. My son spends one night in the hospital—costing more than a family vacation. My friends have prescription coverage issues resulting in months of phone calls, emails and letters to resolve. The nightmarish stories and resulting stress are enough to drive you to drink! Don’t do that too much, though… as it will result in rising healthcare costs!

The political football gets pushed up and down the field, but at the end of the day, who’s to blame? If you are like me, you separate the medical provision from the medical billing. Let’s be real and use my son’s hospitalization story as an example. He was acutely ill with bronchitis and not improving. Following a visit to urgent care, he was hospitalized for one night, treated and turned a complete 180° to the better. He received sophisticated, world-class treatment, which is taken for granted in the United States, but in undeveloped nations, his condition is life-threatening. So yes, of course we will pay the bill and be grateful for the care. At the same time, as a business leader, I struggle to see where and how this ends and what it will mean for our communities.

Healthcare in Greater Peoria is not only world-class for patients—it is also the largest employer in the region. For these reasons, all of us must stay involved and active in the decisions that affect our healthcare at home and work. We know national healthcare is going to be a focal point this year. My best suggestion is to stay informed and vigilant, but please do not get so entrenched that you give up on thinking for yourself.

Ask your provider, ask your insurer, ask your employer—and if you are the employer, make sure you are seeking advice from peers. The issues are complex, but need resolving. As with all matters of this magnitude, the Chamber will provide resources as we have them and keep our membership informed. Stay healthy this year, my friends. iBi