Linda Quick has been a force in Florida healthcare policy for decades.
Quick — who was born in Coral Gables Hospital — spent 40 years working in healthcare. The past two decades of that were with the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, which represents hundreds of hospitals and healthcare businesses on legislative and industry issues.
Quick has had an insider’s view of some of the biggest policy and economic events affecting the health of Floridians.
And as of January, she is retired.
“I did tell my staff that if anyone asks can they get me a retirement present — tell them as long as it doesn’t need a wall or a shelf,” said Quick as she packed up an office wallpapered in plaques, certificates of gratitude from healthcare organizations and community groups.
Quick took time between boxes last month to talk to WLRN about what she has learned and where healthcare in Florida is going.
Q: In your more than two decades with the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, how have you seen the business of healthcare change in Florida?
A: The good news for the population in South Florida is that people are healthier. We as a society have institutionalized use of seat belts, and even though Florida doesn’t require it, we wear helmets, and we go to the gym and we pay attention to what we eat. And, we tend to need hospitalization less.
So one of the most obvious changes over time is the decrease of inpatient utilization or as hospital administrators would have called it some decades ago, “heads in beds.” And for everyone that's really pretty good news.
The second reason, besides doing a better job of [people] staying well, is that technology and pharmacology have made it so that almost everything you need from a hospital, you can get, and leave in the same day.
Q: What has the Affordable Care Act meant for hospitals in Florida?
A: The best part of that is the state of Florida has close to 2 million more insured people than we did before. For the institutions, it means less uncompensated care.
The Catch 22: in order to buy affordable coverage, people purchased low-premium, high-deductible health plans. So to some extent you're still sort of uninsured for the initial several thousand dollars.
Q: [In 2015,] the issue of Medicaid expansion was a long fight. And ultimately Tallahassee lawmakers decided not to expand Medicaid. Because it was such a dominant issue in the Legislature, what got lost that you think lawmakers need to be paying attention to?
A: The fact that we are paying for it. In our tax money. Our insurance premiums are higher if we’re buying insurance.
I think they’ve lost sight of the fact that the nurses still get paid, the doctors still get paid, the equipment still gets bought. We're just paying for your own plus a piece of somebody else's.
Q. Your life since retirement: How has it been, and what are your plans?
A. I retired from this position. I haven’t retired from life.
My accountant told me I had to create a company. I named it The Quick Bernstein Connections Group. [It’s based on] what I have done most of my career … introduce people to people they should know and don’t.
I’m very fortunate that I’ve continued to maintain relations with colleagues around the county and around the country, doing what I like best — which is spending time with people I care about and with issues that make the healthcare system better. I’m doing a lot of speaking as well; last week, I was panelist for two organizations.
I would love to write; I certainly plan to do some of that. Right now, I’m doing a blog for the Florida Institute for Health Innovation.
Miami Herald staff also contributed to this report.
Go to http://wlrn.org/post/exit-interview-linda-quick-force-florida-health-care to listen to this intervew. To listen to, and read, more South Florida stories, go to wlrn.org.
Personal: Married to Jerry Bernstein for four years. Two married children: a daughter, 36, in Los Angeles, who has a husband and a daughter; and a son, 33, in Connecticut.
Education: Graduated from Coral Gables High School 50 years ago. Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Newcomb College (Tulane University); moved back to Miami in 1973 and in 1974 received one of the first master’s degrees Florida International University ever gave, in the science of management.
Position: Was president of the South Florida Hospital & Healthcare Association until her retirement Dec. 31. The association, based in Dania, is a cooperative alliance between healthcare providers and represents hospitals and other healthcare organizations in the region. In her role, she dealt with policy on state and national issues including Medicaid reform and the Affordable Care Act. She worked with about 50 hospitals and 100 more healthcare organizations in South Florida, providing advocacy at the local, state and national levels and educational programs for members.
Previous: Executive director of the Health Council of South Florida, which collects and publishes healthcare data, 1982 -1994.
Currently: President, Quick Bernstein Connections Group. Its principal function: to introduce people to each other for business and professional reasons — “people who ought to know each other and don’t,” she says. The company is developing a website; she can be reached at the company at email@example.com. Quick is also in leadership roles with many business, human service and educational institutions, including the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce; OneBlood of South Florida; Camillus House & Health Concern; Carrfour Supportive Housing; and the healthcare MBA programs at the University of Miami and Barry University.