Nurse Walkout Highlights Conflict With Hospitals and Health Insurance Plans
Ideally, all interests in the health care system should work together towards a common goal: the welfare of the patient. Unfortunately, nurses have been pitted against hospitals and the health insurance industry.
The Obama administration's healthcare reform legislation will squeeze insurers and hospitals alike. Medicare payments to facilities are set to be cut over the next several years, and private health plans are set to follow suit.
In order to prepare for these changes, many hospitals are looking for ways to maintain their margins. One of the most common methods is through staff cuts. Nurses, being on the front lines of providing health care services, are largely vulnerable.
Nursing unions in Minnessota and other states are going on strike to protest staffing cuts. While they are certainly concerned about their own pay and benefits, some hospitals may take their cost cutting too far and put patients at risk.
Although it makes them look good to health insurance plans desperate to lower provider payments, understaffed hospitals with overworked, tired nurse practicioners may result in higher rates of medical errors, or even death. Among the nurses' demands during the one-day walkout is a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio. However, the ideal level of staffing is subject to significant debate.
This is a complex issue, especially since the cost of health care has only continued to soar. Health insurers, hospitals, and the subset of well-paid licensed nurse practicioners have each been targeted as the source of the current predicament American health care finds itself. Healthcare reform has only exacerbated the conflict, encouraging the blame game. Regardless, patient safety cannot be sacrificed in the midst.