As part of yet another drama-filled speech by Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, in a plea to the city of Chicago to build a 6,000 square foot video board on the left field wall, Ricketts proclaimed that the team would leave the location where the Cubs have been for the last 99 years. While the threat seems real, the viability of the Cubs continuing to sell out while being in last or second to last in a potential future suburban location is slim to none. The logistics behind the change in the target market are simply too critical to be ignored. As a previous season ticket holder, I spent many of games with a fear of falling concrete or washing my hands in ice cold water on a just above freezing day in April and the appeal of a new stadium with glamorous amenities (as well as necessities like warm water and restocked toilet paper) would be a dream come true… but not in the suburbs. Having been to a Dodgers game recently in Los Angeles, after completion of the game, people simply returned to their cars and headed home. When I asked a fellow patron on where the nearest bar was located, they smiled and responded with “About 15 miles up the road.” However, being around Wrigley Field at the completion of a Cubs game (or sometimes before depending on the score) has a certain magic to it that cannot be replicated anywhere else. While Ricketts may appear to be negotiating at high stakes, the reality is that the Cubs would wither away without Wrigley but Wrigleyville would continue to thrive based on its shear appeal of location within the boundaries of the city and the proximity to other prestigious neighborhoods. In comparison, the move to the suburbs would cause the permanent fan base to drop immediately and the new fan base obtained would wear off after a few losing seasons. Having personally moved to the suburbs twelve years ago, there are friends that were next door neighbors that I have not seen since due to the inconvenience of traveling either to or from the city. But offer tickets to a Cubs game, and I’m on the blue line before you can tell me who the opponent is.
Besides the change in market demographics, the Cubs would need to work with local transportation as well as highway patrol to assure proper flow of traffic which again differs from the knowledge of traveling in the city. If the Kennedy is backed up, most people familiar with the area would be able to navigate through side streets even without GPS assistance but block an exit on the Elgin-O’Hare and you might as well shut down the entire highway.
So what are your thoughts on a potential Cubs move? Do you think Ricketts has thought out all of the risks associated with the move?
A recent article in Time magazine, Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us, the article yet again focused on the outrageous bills that uninsured or underinsured patients are stuck with following medical services received. The article enraged the general public by comparing the cost of simplistic, over-the-counter items that can be found at your local drug store for a fraction of the cost of what is charged by most hospitals. Furthermore, the author continued to focus on the disparity in healthcare pricing across the country, using common procedures with up to ten of thousands of dollars variance depending on geographic location.
What is always interesting about these types of articles is that information is always one-sided; insinuating that hospitals ‘do not care about the patient’ or simply ‘out to make a profit at the expense of the innocent’. Having worked a significant portion of my career in healthcare, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The article failed to mention the process of financial assistance offered by all non-profit healthcare facilities that have discounted rates for patients up to 600% of the federal poverty guidelines (see grid below). What this translates to is that discounts are offered for annual incomes up to $141,300 for a family of four (not exactly ‘poverty’). In addition, most facilities also have catastrophic coverage of a maximum of 25% of a household annual income can be applied to medical expenses.
2013 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR THE 48 CONTIGUOUS STATES
AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Persons in family/household
|For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,020 for each additional person.
As mentioned above, the article also relates the retail cost of an item at a local drug store to the amount charged by a facility, such as the classic example of a generic acetominophen charged at $4-5 per pill where a bottle of 60+ pills can be obtained for $8 over-the-counter. Again, the one-sided image of healthcare ‘costs’ does not take into consideration the direct labor costs associated with the registration personnel that checked-in the patient to the pharmaceutical tech and nurse that administered the drug. And shall we not forget the indirect labor costs associate with the environmental service staff, administrative directors, financial analysts, billers, coders and collectors all associated with converting the revenue from an ambiguous ‘charge’ to actual ‘cash’. These costs can count for upwards of 60% of the charge billed to the patient. In a future world of health insurance exchanges, this will only become more complicated for the patient but healthcare facilities are proactively responding by the creation of new roles of patient navigators in emergency departments and other ancillary locations to assure patients are directed along the correct path, both clinically and financially.
As we all have probably experienced less insurance coverage with higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs, what are your thoughts on this subject?