Carle expansion hopefully a step forward

The proposed expansion of Carle Hospital is a promising development for the surrounding area. New facilities complete with state-of-the-art equipment and the space to treat a population that is growing older every year are things that will improve the overall quality of health care.

The $240 million plan includes an eight-story tower that will house the improved Heart and Vascular Institute in a new 240,000 square foot space and new room for general care and specialized digestive and rehabilitation centers in the other 100,000 square feet.

Fortunately, Carle’s plan is generally supported in the community. While there have been some concerns about the project’s effects on local residents in the construction zone, Carle’s efforts to work with property owners and the Urbana city government – particularly its pledge to not invoke eminent domain to acquire land for the project – are notable.

But in a November Daily Illini story, a local resident proposed that in exchange for the community’s cooperation and to possibly offset the expansion’s effects on property values, Carle should construct a community center that would benefit surrounding residents.

This idea may have some merit, but neither a community center or the expansion project will really remedy the main barrier people face when seeking health care everywhere: cost.

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The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that over 46 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2006. The cost of treating the enormous amount of uninsured patients in emergency rooms all over the country every year has to be passed on in the form of higher premiums for those who have coverage.

In 2005, health care spending amounted to over 2 trillion dollars, according to the National Coalition on Health Care. That amount is projected to rise to over 4 trillion by 2015.

The expansions to Carle, the area’s only Trauma I facility, will dramatically increase the level of service and will no doubt save countless lives. With the baby boomer generation set to retire, the entire medical industry is trying to transform itself to meet their needs.

But as much as health care providers everywhere need to plan for the future, the needs of today’s patients need to be considered as well.

The Urbana community and Carle do need to have a productive give and take relationship. What will help both in long run is to work toward a future in which health care problems remain health care problems, not economic ones.