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COVER STORY
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O.C. healthcare, continued ...Published: September 01, 2012

Kaiser Permanente Orange County –
not your grandfather's hospital room
“We’re doing heart bypasses on patients in their 80s and 90s because people are enjoying quality lives and living longer,” he says. “I may treat an 85-year-old who just returned from traveling and is still involved in the workforce. It all comes down to a patient’s physical age, not chronological age.”

Challenges ahead
The downside to healthcare in O.C. is that, like in any large county, it is faced with its share of problems.
   
“There are areas in which the quality of healthcare could be deemed less than ideal due to lack of access,” says Affable. “Some people lack access to doctors and quality hospitals, and so they use emergency rooms [for noncritical healthcare] instead.”
    
Additionally, the high cost of living in O.C. is no secret. “It’s a difficult place in which to do business, from a financial perspective,” says Afable. “Despite this fact, the talent is now here.”
   
Many healthcare professionals wouldn’t dream of moving. The 
geography and weather make it a highly desirable place to live, says Dr. James J. Strebig, an internist and concierge physician in Irvine.
   
“Combine that with health institutions of excellence, and Orange County continues to attract physicians,” he says.
   
On the other hand, low reimbursements, HMOs and PPOs that began in the late 1980s and early 1990s make it more challenging to practice medicine.
   
“The many regulations and thousands of laws interfere with the practice,” says Strebig. “Between the government and the insurance companies, it makes medicine less enjoyable to practice every year.”
   
Every industry has its regulations to some degree, but it’s really excessive in healthcare and didn’t always used to be that way, he says.
   
Across the nation, significant changes are occurring in the healthcare landscape, and we are experiencing that here in Orange County as well, says Cripe. 
   
“Specifically, hospitals are merging, physician practices are being purchased by hospitals and health plans, and consolidation is occurring among health plans and health systems,” she says. Cripe predicts that fiscal realities will continue to drive these changes.
   
Belmont agrees that healthcare is heading toward greater access and a focus on preventive care.
   
“The Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act [widely referred to as “Obamacare”] reflects this,” she says. “We’re moving away from a traditional system of healthcare delivery that is based on providing patients with more tests and procedures to one that emphasizes patient outcomes.”
   
The longevity of the providers in Orange County attests to the dedication of its people, says Montalvo. St. Joseph’s healthcare system is celebrating 100 years in California. Hoag has been around since 1952.
   
“We’ve been in the community, we’re part of the community and we’re not leaving the community,” says Montalvo.


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Comment at 4/12/2013