May 17, 2010

Annual SIH/SIU Health Policy Institute is May 21

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A program at the Southern Illinois University School of Law will focus on the challenges medical providers and society could face in allocating limited health care resources.

“Rationing Medical Resources: Panacea or Peril for American Health Care?” is set for Friday, May 21, at the 12th annual SIH/SIU Health Policy Institute.

The national debate about health care reform, insurance reform and rising health care costs, combined with a move to insure more people while dealing with limited resources, provides a timely topic, said W. Eugene Basanta, law professor and director of the law school’s Center for Health Law and Policy.

According to the symposium’s brochure, the program “will crystallize the medical, legal, social, economic and ethical challenges presented in the debate about regulating the distribution of limited health care resources.”

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend any of the sessions. To schedule a specific presenter for an interview, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

Registration ranges from $50 to $100, with continuing education credit available. Pre-registration is preferred but on-site registration is available the day of the program. Online registration is available at Registration is also available by calling 618/536-7751, or by FAX at 618/453-5680.

“What we need to think about is being more effective, fairer, more efficient and more rational in the way that we allocate health care resources,” Basanta said. “The other thing that is important in this discussion to keep in mind is that health care and access to care is one component of health. There are many other ways that we can spend our money that can enhance people’s health.”

Other considerations that figure into a person’s health include improved housing, environmental factors, and workplace safety, Basanta said.

“Achieving a healthy community is partially the function of health care but is not solely the function of health care. Sometimes we forget about that, I think,” Basanta said.

Speakers include Dr. Tom W. Noseworthy, director of the Centre for Health and Policy Studies and head of the Department of Community Sciences at the University of Calgary.

The Canadian health care system is a model held out by both proponents and opponents of health care reform in the United States. Noseworthy will provide an objective analysis and overview of the Canadian system, and understands areas in which it functions very well and areas where there are shortcomings, Basanta said.

“I think people will come away with a very balanced understanding of the Canadian system,” he said.

Another speaker, Ruqaiijah (Ri-KEE-ah) Yearby, an associate professor of law at University of Buffalo Law School, will talk about the racial disparities in health care access and the impact that rationing can have on minorities.

Basanta does not believe the health care reform legislation signed into law in March by President Barack Obama will be entirely scrapped if there is a change in the political balance in Congress or through legal challenges. He hopes the reform is the start of an extended process of addressing the problem of health care access and resource allocation.

“This is a first step that needed to be taken but it is only a first step in that direction,” he said. “It’s something that we will have to grapple with over an extended period of time.”

Southern Illinois Healthcare is one of the program’s sponsors. Rex Budde, SIH president, said everyone should be concerned with the long-term implications of health care reform.

“We cannot expand coverage and achieve the stated goal of bending the cost curve unless we either provide less types of services or pay less for the services provided, or both,” he said.

There is also a potential for shifting insurance risks to local providers that could ultimately result in fewer providers and an indirect rationing of health care, Budde said. A recipe for continuing increases in health care costs exists when you combine populations that engage in personal behavior that lead to an upward spiral of chronic medical conditions with a lack of malpractice reform in Illinois that creates an incentive for physicians to practice defensive medicine, Budde said.

The SIU School of Medicine, the law school’s Center for Health Law and Policy, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, and St. Louis-based Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard law firm also are program sponsors.

Papers from the symposium will appear in the Journal of Legal Medicine.

The conference is important because it regularly addresses issues that directly impact the region, Basanta said. One of the biggest problems nationally during the debate on health care reform has been misinformation, he said.

“If the professional community and the general population are going to participate meaningfully in the public discussion about our health care system, reliable information like this is very important,” he said.

The event schedule is:

• 8:30 a.m. – Registration.

• 9 a.m. -- Welcome and introductions. Frank G. Houdek, interim dean, SIU School of Law, and Rex Budde, president, Southern Illinois Healthcare.

Morning moderator: W. Eugene Basanta, Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law, professor of medical humanities, director, Center for Health Law and Policy, SIU School of Law.

• 9:15 a.m. -- “Health Resource Allocation: A Made-in-Canada Approach.“ Tom W. Noseworthy, director of the Centre for Health and Policy Studies and head of the Department of Community Sciences at the University of Calgary.

• 10:30 a.m. -- “Making Hard Choices -- Rationing Health Care Services.” Lanis L. Hicks, professor in the Department of Health Management and Informatics, University of Missouri School of Medicine.

• Noon -- “An Extreme Makeover for the Employer’s House of Benefits.” Larry S. Boress, president and CEO, Midwest Business Group on Health.

Afternoon moderator: Michele Mekel, assistant professor of law, SIU School of Law, assistant professor of medical humanities, SIU School of Medicine Department of Medical Humanities.

• 1:15 p.m. -- “Variation in Health Care System Efficiency: A Map to Improving Value.” Dr. David C. Goodman, professor of pediatrics and of health policy at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice; director of the Center for Health Policy Research, and co-principal investigator, Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care.

• 2:15 p.m. -- “Is Rationing of Medical Resources the Answer when Racial Inequities in Health Care Persist?” Ruqaiijah Yearby, associate professor of law at University of Buffalo Law School.

For more information on the symposium visit