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Posted on Thu, May 12, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

CEO Doug Strong: University of Michigan hospitals already reforming health care

By Juliana Keeping

Depending on who you ask, the federal government’s health care reform law:

  • A. Squashes entrepreneurship, personal freedoms and innovation;
  • B. Improves the quality access to and efficiency of patient care in flawed system;
  • C. Other.

Today at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, Mitt Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, is expected to choose A. He'll blast the reforms spearheaded by President Barack Obama and call for a repeal in advance of a second bid for the White House.

Thumbnail image for Mitt_Romney.JPG

Mitt Romney

U-M wasted no time detaching itself from the visit, which it says was organized by the U-M College Republicans.

In advance of the Romney stop Thursday, Douglas Strong, the CEO of University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, didn't comment directly on the expected content of Romney's speech.


Doug Strong, CEO, University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers

U-M photo

But he understands why Romney would choose U-M for the announcement.

“I think, why not? Speaking at a university where all points of view are to be respected is a good thing,” he said.

But he did say the health care reform law isn’t making University of Michigan Hospitals do anything they wouldn’t try to do anyway. It's sped up the process by which positive changes have occurred, Strong said.

The hospitals want to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care and were striving to do so years before The Affordable Care Act became law in March 2010, Strong said. Successful efforts to save Medicare costs while delivering quality care to the program’s beneficiaries became part of the framework of the law, for example, he said.

But Strong acknowledged the financial impact of health care on hospitals is yet unknown.

“Insuring more people (and) taking better care of the citizens of our county state and nation is a very positive thing,” Strong said. “There’s are troubling aspects to it, which is, how do you pay for it?”

The 2010 law guarantees access to health insurance for millions of Americans via an expansion of Medicaid and subsidized private coverage for middle-and low-income individuals. At the hospitals, there has been no noticeable impact the delivery of care as the changes roll out. That could change in the next year or two.

In 2014, businesses will get to choose whether to offer insurance or have employees receive it from the federal government through entities called health insurance exchanges.

Strong said that upsurge in demand for care an eventual expansion of coverage will bring “is a good thing,” but added, “It’s not as though we just have doctors and nurses sitting around.”

Strong oversees University Hospital, C.S. Mott Children’s and Women’s Hospital, 30 health centers and 120 outpatient clinics.

The reform law aims to stop health insurance companies from increasing rates. It’s good for patients, he said, but will impact hospitals’ bottom lines.

University of Michigan hospitals take in about $2 billion a year, Strong said.

Just under half of that are reimbursements from the federal government via Medicaid and Medicare. Strong said hospitals lose money due to the mechanism by which the cash-strapped state or federal government chooses to repay hospitals for services via these programs. Hospitals currently make up for the loss via payments from commercial insurance plans.

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Fri, May 13, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.

There are ten comments on this story and I support all of them and had voted on them. Who pays the cost of health care? The CEO must phrase this question in a different manner. Who is looting the health care dollar? If I ever get an opportunity to sit with this CEO and spend five minutes, in those five precious minutes, I would physically demonstrate what this CEO is not doing to provide good patient care. As the saying goes, "The taste of the Pudding is in the Eating." To assess the adequacy of patient care, we generally review the medical documents of people who die while receiving hospital/medical care. These are called 'Fatal Case Sheet Documents'. In the Indian Armed Forces, the Medical Corps came into existence from the practices of the British Royal Army Medical Corps. We review the 'fatal case sheet documents' to assess the adequacy of patient care and to learn about our shortcomings in the delivery of such care. We check and review every single fact, the date, the time, the findings, the tests, the procedures that are on the record and see as to how they could have contributed to the death of the patient. We all know that man is mortal but we want to know as to where we fail; due to intentional, unintentional mistakes, or simply lack of knowledge and incompetance. Many times, people who did not use proper judgment are warned and are directed to correct themselves while the Army Medical Corps is totally protected from litigation. Army takes its own disciplinary action if an individual is at fault. None of the doctors have malpractice insurance and it is not required. I want to sit with this CEO and review one fatal case sheet document to know about the quality of patient care at the U of M Health System.


Fri, May 13, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

Kindly read 'incompetence' in place of 'incompetance'.


Fri, May 13, 2011 : 11:37 a.m.

? How can we afford to give health insurance to everyone ? If we took all the money that this country pays in health insurance ( through work and private polices ) and put in in a big pot you would find out that we pay almost twice what the best health care systems in Europe pay.

Ed Kimball

Fri, May 13, 2011 : 1 p.m.

And those systems in Europe cover ALL citizens with little or no cost at point-of-service. Furthermore, they are all single-payer systems. Could that be the secret? ;-)


Fri, May 13, 2011 : 2 a.m.

CEO, of a Hospital CEO, of an oil company CEO, of a medical supply company CEO, of Comcast What do yhey have in common? They all get mega rich. We get the shaft!


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

All you have to do is look at a bill from any hospital to understand why healthcare is so expensive. They will tell you it is expensive to treat patients but you have to wonder why a trip to ER cost so much when usually you only see the Doctor for a few minutes in most cases. Most of the time is spent waiting. We are charged at such a great cost to cover the care that they are required to give for receiving Federal money. If everyone has insurance then maybe the cost could come down since we wouldn't have to depend on going to ER. I wouldn't hold my breath though since hospitals are in business to make money. As far as Mr. Romney's idea to send block grants to the State and let the Governor decide.... I wouldn't trust Snyder to do the right thing.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 5:49 p.m.

An Article was posted to on Mon, Dec 20, 2010, detailing salaries of UM executives, including CEO Doug Strong and other Hospital administrators.. Somehow it takes the steam out of complaints about Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 5:30 p.m.

Under PPACA everyone has to have insurance, hospitals stand to benefit greatly because they won't have to provide anymore free care to people without insurance, and try and recover that money later in a collection action. Federal law requires health systems like UMHS to treat patients who show up in the R since they are recipients of federal dollars. The lobbyists for the health systems and hospitals were the first to buckle to the administration and secure their interests. For anyone who thinks it is the altruistic nature of CEO's of health systems to make sure everybody has access to care, it ain't. It is to make sure they get paid for everyone's access to care, and handsomely at that.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

I like the snarkiness Thor!. As an aside, handsomely referred to the CEO's salaries, not the government reimbursement rates.


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 5:49 p.m.

Handsomely > Something > Nothing


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

Something > Nothing


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 5:37 p.m.

Handsomely? Not so much. Medicare and Medicaid reimburse at such a low rate that hospitals that had to rely on those rates only would provide miserable care. Think Kings County in LA. So as the new healthcare law puts more people into those classifications, hospitals are hardly likely to be reimbursed "handsomely".