Healthcare CEO compares ‘Obamacare’ to DMV

Healthcare reform is necessary, but problematic, the chief executive of Hoag Hospital’s parent company said during the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s WAKEUP! meeting Thursday morning.

Reform and the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, seek to improve “access to care for those who don’t have access today for financial reasons,” said Covenant Health Network CEO Dr. Richard Afable, and attempts “to get the federal government out from underneath the huge financial liability that it has in paying for the care of 100 million people in this country.”

However, a huge regulatory effort is needed to make Obamacare happen, considering the bureaucracy and politics to which it is tied, he said.

“Think about the Department of Motor Vehicles running your healthcare,” Afable quipped, to which the audience of about 100 gathered in the Newport Beach Central Library Friends Room chuckled.

Even his own son, who is 30 and uninsured, due to cost of living and graduate school, will benefit from Obamacare, he said.

However, he noted at the beginning of his speech, that local healthcare outranks others.

“If you have private health insurance or Medicare, with or without a supplement, and you live in the U.S., or if you live in California, or if you live in Orange County, but especially if you live in Newport Beach … you have the best healthcare in the world,” Afable said, garnering an applause from the crowd. “Period. Nothing else comes close.”

Covenant Health Network is the parent organization of Hoag Hospital and St. Joseph Health.



Hoag Hospital President and Chief Executive Robert Braithwaite spoke about how technology is changing healthcare.

He said Hoag is “putting health back into your fingertips,” with the addition of phone and tablet apps that keep appointments, track a person’s health and even help diagnose some health problems.

“There are many more of these types of devices and tools that are coming out, all of which, for the community, make healthcare better, more accessible, more affordable and more convenient,” Braithwaite said.

Technology can help parents determine if their child has an ear infection by showing a doctor the inner ear via a smart phone camera, he said, later adding that a doctor can then in turn diagnose the infection and send an electronic prescription to the parent without ever stepping into a doctor’s office.

Afable also touched on how technology can aid consumerism in healthcare, noting that people are using the Internet to make their decisions.

He compared shopping for healthcare to buying a car or phone.



The chamber’s event came on the heels of a recent policy change by Hoag to no longer provide elected abortions after joining with St. Joseph Health, a Catholic provider.

About four to five people stood outside passing out fliers that read, “Women in Orange County Need your Support!” referencing the decision and asking attendees to email Deputy Attorney General Wendi Horwitz and express their opposition to the decision.

During a brief question-and-answer session following the speech, the pair were asked if Hoag will continue to respect end-of-life requests, now that it is part of St. Joseph.

Braithwaite said it will honor patients’ requests.

“Hoag has had a policy of honoring advanced directives,” Braithwaite responded. “Advanced directives are patients’ wishes at the end of life. The affiliation with Covenant Health, or St. Joseph Health system, does nothing to change Hoag’s desire, intent or what we will do related with honoring a patient’s wishes regarding end of life care.”