Video: Did Michelle Obama start a patient-dumping program?

posted at 9:27 am on July 23, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

While Barack Obama presses for health-care reform, Sean Hannity looks at his wife’s efforts to reform medical care at the University of Chicago Medical Center as its vice-president. In a lengthy segment on last night’s show, Hannity reports on the Urban Health Initiative, a program ostensibly intended to provide the kind of change in health care that President Obama says his program will deliver nationally — fewer emergency room vists, better wellness and prevention care, and lower costs. However, the people in Chicago see the UHI differently. In practice, it looks more like a patient-dumping scheme to avoid dealing with Medicare/Medicaid patients (via HA reader JiangxiDad):

This came up during the presidential campaign, but just as the conventions and running-mate selection picks had the media blinkered. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on it August 23rd, 2008:

Sen. Barack Obama’s wife and three close advisers have been involved with a program at the University of Chicago Medical Center that steers patients who don’t have private insurance — primarily poor, black people — to other health care facilities.

Michelle Obama — currently on unpaid leave from her $317,000-a-year job as a vice president of the prestigious hospital — helped create the program, which aims to find neighborhood doctors for low-income people who were flooding the emergency room for basic treatment. Hospital officials say such patients hinder their ability to focus on more critically ill patients in need of specialized care, such as cancer treatment and organ transplants.

Obama’s top political strategist, David Axelrod, co-owns the firm, ASK Public Strategies, that was hired by the hospital last year to sell the program — called the Urban Health Initiative — to the community as a better alternative for poor patients. Obama’s wife and Valerie Jarrett, an Obama friend and adviser who chairs the medical center’s board, backed the Axelrod firm’s hiring, hospital officials said.

Another Obama adviser and close friend, Dr. Eric Whitaker, took over the Urban Health Initiative when he was hired at U. of C. in October 2007. Whitaker previously had been director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. Obama has said he recommended Whitaker for the state job, giving his name to Tony Rezko, who helped Gov. Blagojevich assemble his Cabinet. Rezko, a former fund-raiser for Obama and Blagojevich, was convicted in June on federal corruption charges tied to state deals.

A leading Illinois Democrat, Rep. Bobby Rush, called for a federal investigation into the matter seven weeks ago:

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) is calling on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate allegations that the University of Chicago Medical Center is practicing patient dumping, an illegal act where hospitals divert poor or uninsured patients to other hospitals.

“As an institution that receives federal funds, I am concerned about recent media reports that allege the medical center is turning away and refusing treatment to low-income, uninsured patients,” Rush said in a letter to U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), the committee chairman.

Rush, who called patient dumping “a widespread problem” in American health care, said he might move to lift the hospital’s federal funding if it turns out the allegations are true.

The people of the community seem pretty convinced that UHI intended on keeping poor people out of the UCMC, as these reports and others show.

What I find most interesting about this is that the three people in the White House behind UHI have shown a remarkably low profile on the push for ObamaCare. Could it be that Obama and his staff worry that this will derail the effort, and have kept the trio out of the debate deliberately?

***

Update (Michelle): FYI, I reported on Michelle Obama’s health care horror story you won’t hear about on June 19 and have a detailed section on the patient-dumping scheme in Chapter 2 of Culture of Corruption.


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