Tag Archives: healthcare

Legislating Health Care Solutions for Small Businesses

February 4, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Health care consultant Sean McGuire has a background in political science. “My first job out of college was working in Washington, D.C., which is what I always wanted to do,” McGuire says.

The Iowa native worked on the staff of the Senate Committee on Finance, headed by Chuck Grassley, from 2005-2008. This committee oversees legislation around health care, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

McGuire continued to educate himself about health care legislation, even after coming back to Omaha. When McGuire read the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare), he realized that the gray areas and sweeping size of the ACA would cause confusion.

“I recognized that this law is probably one of the biggest pieces of legislation that has ever been passed in our lifetime,” McGuire says.

McGuire then worked as the UNMC health policy adviser. A large part of this job was to inform the organization on the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the university, its hospital, and the local community. The job also included organizing quarterly briefings for local media.

“Health care reform was just starting to take shape, and Sean played a lead role on a committee that included some of the Medical Center’s brightest minds…The committee served as a resource for the entire state to help people better understand what was happening with health care reform,” says Tom O’Connor, senior associate public relations director for the UNMC.

McGuire understood that the ACA would have the most impact on doctors, small hospitals, and small businesses.

“They are there to provide a service—they’re not there to figure out government regulations and compliance.” McGuire says. “Those [people] are really who we enjoy working with the most.”

To offer solutions for health care for those small businesses, McGuire founded E.D. Bellis in 2011.

E.D. Bellis is named for McGuire’s great-great-great-grandfather, who came to Omaha in 1870. Bellis was recommended by a talent agent in New York to be the first organist for Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church and would be described as the “finest organ player west of the Missouri” in his obituary.

“He was a very influential person in the Omaha community that brought music and culture to a city that really needed it,” McGuire says. “I felt that he was the perfect face for what we’re trying to build…we’re trying to bring something new, which is information and understanding to people that need it, just as he brought culture and music to a rough pioneer town.”

In 2013, E.D. Bellis began an agency and broker partnership program with the insurance company Guardian. In that capacity, ED Bellis lends their health care law and compliance expertise to customers of Guardian as a complimentary service.

“They’re unique to the marketplace,” says Doug Gillespie, group sales consultant at Guardian.

In 2015, they began working throughout Des Moines, and in 2016 they started working with the Quad Cities and Ohio.

In summer 2017, E.D. Bellis branched out to Presque Isle, Maine. It’s an area that has a shortage of health care expertise. Five or six hospitals cover a portion of the state the size of Connecticut.

McGuire liked the fact that they were innovative, exemplified by their participation in the pioneer Accountable Care Organization demonstration. ACOs were eligible for higher reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare if they met all the required standards of providing higher quality care and keeping their population healthy. While 32 health care systems were selected to take part, only a third of them made money.

E.D. Bellis plans to complement their existing programs and capitalize on new opportunities as the laws change.

“What I believe we are onto is a national concept that could be replicated all across the country,” McGuire says. “If it does, it’s going to prove our concept and we’ll open up in other parts of the country as well.”

McGuire anticipates that Omaha will remain the headquarters for E.D. Bellis, partially because Omaha and Des Moines are insurance and health care-heavy. “Almost every large building all over the Midwest is some sort of insurance,” McGuire says. Yet, many are still in the dark about health care. E.D. Bellis is there to help.

“The Affordable Care Act has caused a lot of problems for a lot of people, but it’s done good things too,” McGuire says. “I didn’t do this to make a buck. I did this to fill a need.”

Visit edbellisinc.com for more information.

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Urgent!

January 28, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It happens. A child who spent the day happily, healthily, playing with his friend wakes up at night with a fever of 102 degrees. When the child and family can’t get in to see the doctor, it is sometimes hard for them to know what to do.

In years past, the answer was the emergency room, a term synonymous with blaring sirens and fatally wounded patients. Today’s families have a number of health care options that serve as an alternative to the traditional emergency room.

Urgent care facilities have become one of the fastest growing areas in health care as the demand for more affordable care outside of regular business hours continues to rise.

“Today’s families are busier than ever and their lives don’t always fit into a doctor’s regular office hours,” says Matthew Gibson, M.D., pediatrician at Methodist Physicians Clinic. “Immediate care clinics have become a more accessible and convenient solution for minor illnesses and injuries without the longer waits and bigger fees you typically have with an emergency room.”

Situations in which people might visit an immediate care clinic include minor illnesses like colds, fevers, flu, rashes, and mild infections. Many urgent and immediate care clinics can also perform X-rays, blood work, pregnancy tests, urinalysis, and strep screens, and apply casts, splints, and stitches.

According to surveys conducted by the Urgent Care Association of America, approximately 90 percent of urgent care visits take 60 minutes or less, while the average wait for an emergency room visit is four hours. The Urgent Care Association also reported in 2014 that nearly half of all visits to urgent care centers result in an average charge of less than $150—compared to the average cost of an emergency room visit, $1,354.

Urgent care clinics are typically open evenings after most doctor’s offices have closed, as well as on weekends and holidays. Unlike emergency rooms, they are not open 24/7. Some are stand-alone clinics, while most in the Omaha area are doctor’s offices during the day and transition to urgent care after hours.

Methodist has five urgent care clinics around town and Nebraska Medicine has four. They both bill visits the same as a regular doctor’s visit. 

Children’s Hospital & Medical Center offers three urgent care sites in Omaha and one in Council Bluffs that specialize in pediatric care, including pediatric sports injuries.

CHI Health operates six urgent care centers in six clinic locations and as well as 10 Quick Care Clinics inside area Hy-Vee stores in Omaha and Council Bluffs. These Quick Care clinics are convenient walk-in clinics that provide care for minor medical problems for patients 18 months or older. The clinics are open evenings and on weekends, with no appointment necessary.

A visit to an emergency room would be warranted for more serious problems such as shortness of breath; chest palpitations; difficulty speaking; sudden dizziness; numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg; chest pain; uncontrollable cough; severe abdominal or pelvic pain; fractures with bones showing; loss of consciousness; dehydration; or gunshot wounds.

“If it’s not life-threatening and you’re not sure what to do, call your doctor first,” says Dr. Gibson. “Most pediatric offices have an after-hours nurse line who can help direct you to the right place.”

Patrick Anderl, M.D., family practitioner at Nebraska Medicine, agrees. “I always recommend calling your doctor first since they know you and your history. If you can’t reach your doctor or get in to see him or her in a timely fashion and it’s an acute problem, then you should consider immediate care.”

Another care option offered by Methodist and CHI is telemedicine and virtual care. These services offer care around the clock via phone or video (such as Skype, FaceTime, or video chat). Patients who use virtual care are connected with a licensed health care provider who can help diagnose and make treatment recommendations for a variety of common conditions like colds, sinus symptoms, urinary tract infections, sore throat, pink eye, or a rash. Prescriptions can also be filled, when required.

Methodist offers this service for a flat fee of $39 per visit. CHI Health is offering the service for $10 with a credit card for a limited time.

“This is just another way to give families access to care after the urgent care clinic has closed,” says Gibson. “You may be a mother at home with other children in bed and leaving the house may not be an option. This allows you to talk to a health care provider about your child’s illness instead of having to wait until the next day. It’s all about making care more accessible and convenient.” FamilyGuide

Visit chihealth.com, bestcare.org, childrens-omaha.org, or nebraskamed.com for more information about the services mentioned in this article.

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.

To Tanzania with Love

January 15, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and provided by Alegent Creighton Health

Life-changing work by Alegent Creighton Health in Tanzania is the focus of a forthcoming documentary from a one-time Omaha television news personality. When former KMTV anchor-reporter Mary Williams and videographer Pete Soby travel to the African nation in February, their main point of contact will be ACH’s man-on-the-job there, Bob Kasworm, whose life has been transformed by the calling he follows in that distant land.

Kasworm, a biomedical engineer and devout Christian, combines career and faith in Tanzania, his home the last 10 years.

“This was never in my plans,” says Kasworm. “I really wasn’t thinking I would ever go to Africa or have a life of service,” he says.

He first visited in 2001 on a Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America-sponsored trip. He went to evaluate the potential of Alegent assisting hospitals, dispensaries, and public health programs there.

The pull of Africa began then.

“From the very first trip there was never a day and rarely an hour when Africa was not on my mind,” he says. “Yes, it was the poverty and the need, but it was more than that. Somehow Africa just got into my blood.”

He made a dozen or so additional visits in a three-year span as Alegent committed itself to working with the evangelical church and various health and civic partners in Machame, an area on the southeastern slope of Mount Kilimanjaro. He cultivated and coordinated the growing relationship between the partners and implemented various initiatives.

The organization’s efforts there include training medical staff at Machame Hospital, developing Machame Nursing School, providing nursing scholarships, and delivering medical equipment and supplies. Kasworm leads the Homes for Health program that uses local laborers to build new, cleaner, safer homes for residents.

At the end of 2004 Kasworm decided to live in Tanzania full-time. He says it was then his wife “realized that what she thought was just a temporary ‘mid-life crisis’ was something I was powerless to resist.”

He’s since learned Swahili well enough to speak it fluently.

Machame Lutheran Hospital, founded some 110 years ago by German missionaries, is at the center of much of Alegent’s 
work there.

“We have the hospital with about 120 inpatients and many outpatients and clinics,” he explains. “We also have a Clinical Officer Training school and now the nursing school. There are about 20 homes for staff.”

The campus is on a rare paved road. There’s running water (“usually”), electricity (“much of the time”), and internet access (“slow”).

Bob Kasworm in Tanzania

Bob Kasworm in Tanzania

Progress is plodding but rewarding.

“The most satisfying thing is that, in many cases, if not for our efforts and involvement many would simply not get help,” he continues. “A child with a club foot would become an adult with a club foot. The nursing student would not have had a chance to study. It is not like you can just go down the street to an alternative. There is no safety net. We do it, or it won’t happen. We can now point to a number of successes.

“There is such a shortage of trained healthcare workers that our efforts in education may well be our biggest legacy. If you educate one nurse they will care for thousands over their career.”

Williams, who interviewed Kasworm on one of his periodic visits to Omaha, describes him as a “strong, driven” man who “sees opportunities where others don’t.”

ACH mission integration consultant Lisa Kelly says, “He’s so embedded in that culture now it’s amazing. He’s definitely a problem-solver, which is huge in that country. Everything from unloading containers of things we send to fixing machines to keeping a water source going or getting an internet connection set up…you name it, Bob is the guy who figures out how to do it.

“He has to navigate what’s possible in the developed world with what’s possible there in that culture and that setting. So you have to think of medicine in a whole new way and what he has been able to do is to bridge that gap.”

Williams and Soby are eager to capture the story from a grassroots perspective.

“You can’t really tell the story without talking to the people on the ground who are being helped, and that would start with the patients coming through the door,” says Williams. “You cannot tell the story without talking to all the players—the patients, the nurses, the young women who have a fighting chance now. We can’t tell the story unless we go past the borders and see how exactly the people live and the challenges they face every day. We’re going to experience that first-hand. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

When Williams left KM3 in 2009 and launched her own marketing and media production company, she set her sights on telling stories that engage people’s hearts and minds. From reporting medical news she knew Alegent had compelling stories to be told and she wanted to be the storyteller that shared them.

Kasworm and a villager inspect the bounty of harvest.

Kasworm and a villager inspect the bounty of harvest.

There wouldn’t be a Tanzania story without Kasworm, whose year-round presence in that county makes the Alegent Creighton mission model unique. Much emphasis is placed on building relationships and making connections through ministry and medical mission trips organized by ACH and the Nebraska Synod of the ELCA.

For Williams, whose only previous overseas assignment was covering local airmen serving in Desert Storm, it’s an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a life-changing experience.”

She and Soby expect to complete the 30-minute documentary in the spring.

Kasworm sees the project as another vehicle to foster awareness between Tanzanians and Americans.

“Our experience lets us serve as a bridge between the cultures and reduce misunderstandings. It seems much of our important work has not come from analysis or needs assessment. The work has just found us. I am sure more will present itself.

“As long as the doors keep opening and my health stays good, I hope to continue.”

 Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.