President of local hospital explains healthcare in colloquium

An Economics Colloquium took place on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 4:30 p.m. in Steitz 102. The presentation, titled “Important Points of Change in American Healthcare and an Update on the Affordable Care Act,” was given by Travis Andersen, president of Appleton’s St. Elizabeth Hospital. The talk was formerly called “Health Care — It Took Years to Build Up this Much Duct Tape.” The lecture focused primarily on the history of the American healthcare system and the way that this history has shaped the current health care system.

Once stating his plan for the talk, Andersen asked the audience members what kinds of things they wanted him to focus on during the speech.

Andersen then began by talking about the origins of American healthcare, with the founding of the Pennsylvania Hospital of Philadelphia in 1751 and the discovery of ether in 1846 by William Morton. He covered the impact of the founding of the American Medical Association in 1847, The New Deal of 1935, the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, and the HMO act of 1973. He also discussed the impact of developments such as the invention of pasteurization and a variety of other advances in medicine, such as the polio vaccine and the invention of penicillin.

A subject that he discussed at great length was the shift of emphasis from care to cure. As medicine developed and we have been able to more fully cure people, hospitals have shifted away from being places that concentrate on easing the pain of someone’s final years to a place that tries to cure a patient as thoroughly as possible.

With this development, people tend to live longer, and as they live longer they have higher medical bills. Because of this, the way that the medical system in the U.S. is handled has come under consideration. This includes the development of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This act is sometimes known as ACA or “Obamacare.”

The Affordable Care Act was implemented as a way to help give insurance to people who might not otherwise be able to be covered. Andersen said in relation to the act, “I truly believe, regardless of income, access to care matters.”

Nathan Whiteman, a sophomore majoring in economics, said that he enjoyed the simplicity with which the information was delivered. “I have never seen the impact of a longer life span laid out so simply and comprehensively.”

Mark Jenike, Associate Professor of Anthropology, says he was drawn to the lecture in part because the speaker is the leader of an important local community institution. “I think it is important to understand how state and national issues like PPACA are playing out locally,” said Jenike. “By presenting an informed, depoliticized perspective from one important category of stakeholder, he sought to promote understanding rather than engaging in advocacy or polemics.”

Andersen earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and German from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, and his masters in hospital and health administration from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. In addition to his position as hospital president, Andersen serves on the Gold Cross Board of Directors, Performing Arts Center Board of Directors, Catalpa Health Board of Directors, the Calumet Medical Center Boards of Directors, and the Calumet Area Community Health Foundation Board of Directors.

St. Elizabeth Hospital was Appleton’s first hospital. It was established in 1899. Andersen became president of it in 2007.  He is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operation of the hospital. It is a part of the Affinity Health System.