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Looking for silver linings in Adirondack Health restructuring

December 10, 2012
Editorial by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise: Publisher Catherine Moore, Managing Editor Peter Crowley

Bad news broke Friday: Adirondack Health plans to cut its staff and restructure its operation to close a $3 million budget deficit next year. We feel terribly for the 17 people who were told Friday they'll be laid off.

On the other hand, we're glad this local conglomerate of hospitals and nursing homes is not afraid to do what it must to secure its own financial health. No one is getting rich at others' expense here: Adirondack Health is a nonprofit organization, and its leaders have taken many other cost-cutting and reorganizational steps - including freezing their own pay - without which they'd have to lay off more workers. They're spreading these cost-saving measures out pretty thinly. Workers seem to understand that, as hard as the layoffs are to bear.

This organization has a long history of serving this community conscientiously. We see nothing in this move that changes that.

A big reason for the cuts is that fewer people are using the services the hospital charges the most for - overnight hospital beds and nursing homes. The recent emphasis of preventive care and home care for the elderly are said to be contributing factors, and yes, it's good for people to live healthier and spend more of their later years at home.

It's also an indication that the shift toward reducing health care costs - one of the main aims of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) - is under way. The idea is that, as people spend less on health care, the free-market supply-demand process will bring down the cost of everyone's health insurance.

But that shift is painful and uncertain. Many of this region's hospitals are laying people off right about now. We hope this is a necessary adjustment to the nation's new health care system and not a sign of instability.

What if hospitals get hammered and the price of health insurance stays sky-high? All may not go as planned.

Some people don't trust the government. Others don't trust the health insurance and drug companies. We're not entirely sure about either, but we see reason to be, to use a cliche, cautiously optimistic.

It seems to us that if everyone moves forward feeling bonded by a sense of common, American duty to make this new national program work - or at least to make the best of it - then it will work out well for the common good. But will they? There sure are a lot of moving pieces to this puzzle.



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