How Not To Spend Money

Now that I have been on the beach for over two years I find myself beginning to question certain practices by healthcare providers.  Things that made sense to me when I was in an office rather than on the beach no longer make sense.

For instance, for some reason I have been attending University of California football games in Berkeley for over 50 years.  It is certainly not for the thrill of victory which seldom occurs.  In a sorry commentary, Cal fans were ecstatic last season when we won just enough games to be invited to the “Cheez-It Bowl”.  The Rose Bowl for Cal fans is the impossible dream.

Cal football games in recent years have been a further source of aggravation since Sutter Health, a competitor to NorthBay Healthcare, is an official sponsor of the football program and their logo is plastered around the stadium.  Losing football games is apparently not aggravation enough.

Sutter Health is also the official sponsor of the Oakland As baseball team which makes me happy that I am a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan.  Of course, Dignity Health is the “official health care provider” of the San Francisco Giants so if these two teams ever again compete against each other in the World Series, not likely this year, it will be Sutter versus Dignity.    May the best healthcare system win.

Recently announced deals have  moved beyond just plastering logos around stadiums. Whole geographic areas are being given new names.  Kaiser has struck a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal with the Golden State Warriors to name an 11 acre area around their new Chase Center Arena in San Francisco “Thrive City”.  I suspect the deprived homeless in the neighborhood will not be welcomed to pitch their tents in that swanky area.

Similarly, Dignity Health has struck a deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team to name their stadium “Dignity Health Sports Park”.  Now that Dignity has merged with Catholic Health Initiatives to form CommonSpirit Health, will they change the stadium’s name?  Hopefully, the team will play with a degree of dignity and commonspirit and there will be no flopping on the field at the first sign of contact. Many soccer players act more like gymnasts than “footballers”.

All these activities are usually deemed “community benefits” which is an obligation nonprofit organizations have to justify their tax exempt status.  The large system CEOs prattle on about how spending this money aids the community, not to mention the sport teams owned by fabulously rich individuals.  That’s hogwash.  They just want to make sure they have good seats at the games.

Nonprofit healthcare organizations should not be adding to the bottom lines of well off sports teams and they certainly should not be pretending anyone else benefits from their largess other than the sport moguls. Shame on them.

It is not just the big guys who get involved in these expensive deals.  Many smaller healthcare organizations sponsor events or other activities which are at best tangentially related to their missions.  The cost of these deals are proportionately less but still significant.

Viewing these activities from the beach I have to wonder whether the money could be better spent.  Should  sick people really have to bear the expense of these vanity activities?  Could the money be better spent on free vaccination clinics or free sport examinations for high school athletes?

I can hear the protests from the healthcare organizations which inappropriately devote their resources to non-healthcare uses. It is a branding effort they will say as if the fans really care. No, it is just a fun way to waste other people’s (patients) money.

I have no problem with advertising to the public about the services a healthcare organization has to offer.  I consider that a legitimate expense and a worthwhile endeavor. Similarly, any effort by healthcare providers to educate the public about healthcare concerns through publications, health fairs and the like should be encouraged. There is a benefit to that.

Spending millions of dollars over multiple years on what are essentially corporate vanity efforts is not defensible.   The next time you hear about layoffs by a healthcare system or the closing of a service or the increase in health plan insurance premiums, ask yourself if perhaps Thrive City should close instead.

From where I sit on the beach, healthcare providers lose credibility when they spend money this way.

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