5 Questions with Jake Henry Jr., Tulsa Regional Chamber chairman-elect
BY LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer
Friday, January 11, 2013
1/11/13 at 4:47 AM
Jake Henry Jr., president and CEO of Saint Francis Health System, is chairman-elect of the Tulsa Regional Chamber. He has more than 30 years of health-care administration experience. Prior to his career at Saint Francis, he served as president and CEO of Christus Spohn Health System in Corpus Christi, Texas. Henry also served a long tenure with the St. Joseph Health System, both in Texas and California.
1: As the incoming chairman of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, what will be your first priority for the year?
Probably foremost is the need to craft our regional vision - one reflective of not just the chamber's mission of assuring regional economic prosperity, but one shaped by the unique needs and perspectives of the region's communities. Other equally important priorities will include advancement of the chamber's OneVoice advocacy agenda, which will place emphasis on public education and on health care.
2: The Tulsa Regional Chamber recently changed its name to better reflect its regional focus. Why is that important to economic development?
As the chamber has evaluated the economic development strategies employed by other like-size cities and regions - notably Charlotte, N.C.; Indianapolis; and Louisville, Tenn. - regional economic collaboration has been the primary factor behind each metropolitan area's success. As important has been the emphasis each region has paid to its various transportation systems - its airports, ports and highways. These are lessons and learnings that have application to Tulsa and northeastern Oklahoma and should be explored.
3: What state legislation does the chamber plan to watch closely this year? Why?
The chamber's legislative priorities will focus principally on public education and health care.
Advancing the interests of our schools, and particularly our public schools, is in the best interest of the region's business community and overall economy. Employers desire an educated workforce, and irrespective of the industry or economic environment, skilled workers will always be in demand.
In the area of health care, the chamber's efforts will be principally focused on Medicaid expansion. Oklahoma's decision to not expand the state's Medicaid program was a disappointment for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that doing so would have greatly reduced the state's already high uninsured rate. It would have likewise improved access to health care services for the poor - care that today is routinely being provided in costly emergency rooms. Such a model of care is inefficient and expensive, and is one of many factors behind the ever-increasing cost of health care.
4: What do you see as the greatest challenges or opportunities facing the Tulsa area?
There are issues looming that could slow whatever economic momentum Tulsa has enjoyed over the past three years. These include the uncertainty around the national economy, the political gamesmanship that will likely characterize the upcoming debt ceiling debate and the uncertainty surrounding the unresolved sequestration cuts.
There is also the issue of American Airlines' bankruptcy proceedings and how these issues might influence the company's plans with respect to its maintenance operation.
5: What are some of the most notable ways in which changes to health-care coverage are going to affect local health-care providers and consumers?
The impact of the uninsured on hospitals, businesses, individuals and health premiums is huge. In this state, 636,000 Oklahomans, or 18.7 percent of the state's population, lacks health insurance.
Expansion of the state's SoonerCare program would have done much to reduce that number. The governor's decision to not expand Medicaid ought not be viewed solely as a health-care issue but rather as an economic issue. It will have numerous implications on regional job growth, particularly in the area of health-care employment, the most stable of all job sectors; health premiums paid by individuals and employers; patient access; and Oklahoma's overall health status.
As a consequence, Oklahomans will be contributing tax dollars to fund coverage expansions in other states. These contributions will include penalties, fees and increased Medicare payroll taxes, many of which will take effect this year and in 2014.
JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World