As Obamacare continues its forward momentum as Law of the Land, there will, no doubt, be plenty of unforeseen ramifications that we won't know about until they rear their head. This is what happens whenever a new piece of sweeping legislation takes hold. What's going to happen when people start choosing to get fined instead of actually buying insurance? Seeing as nothing's really ever for free, how will the "free" birth control and STD prevention counseling be paid for? Will smart youngsters in college no longer go into medical school seeing as being a doctor may not be the crazy moneymaker it once was? And will not having those greedy youngsters in the medical pipeline really have that big an impact anyway? And, oh yeah: How does the whole thing work anyway?
Some of these questions can be answered by whoever is working the Obamacare Hotline, while the rest will simply have to wait for the passage of time, but there is one side effect from the Affordable Care Act that's already making itself known. And, luckily for us, it's a bright, big positive one: Hospital food is now tastier than ever.
Merely a few years ago, the only time a care center would splurge on better-tasting and higher-quality food was if the hospital manager believed in a "you are what you eat" model in trying to make a patient better. This kind of attention to care was reserved more for forward-thinking medical establishments or boutique places where patients would have to pay a premium to not be served mixed-up gruel at their beds. But now, because of a newly-introduced and barely-known procedural aspect of Obamacare, the rest of the hospitals are getting into the mix. Not out of the goodness of their hearts, mind you. But for pragmatic adapt-or-die purposes.
See, hospitals around the U.S. get their funding from the feds based on a customer satisfaction score that patients send off after a stay. (Think: Yelp for hospitals.) And, as we all know, there's no better way to get a positive rating than by delivering quality to a voter's stomach:
While Medicare's surveys do not ask about food, Rex administrators believe their culinary efforts help explain their better-than-average overall satisfaction rates. About 84% of Rex patients surveyed said they would recommend the hospital, compared with 71% nationally. "I have no doubt that raising the culinary bar improves our customer-satisfaction scores," said Chad Lefteris, vice president of operations at Rex.
While plenty of places have yet to swap out the two-cent meals for something actually worth eating -- as last year's review of Ray Charles Cafeteria at Cedars-Sinai proved -- it's only a matter of time before they realize that the only way to get the funding is by offering patients something worthwhile to nosh on during their stay.
Now, as far as whether or not hospital food is a good way to accurately assess the quality of a hospital's care, let's turn to my mother, a very quotable nurse:
"I think that that's an advantage of staying in a hospital. But I don't think it should be the main factor. I think who the doctor is, and what their credentials are, is more important." That said, she does bring up another good side effect that actual tasty food has on a patient's health. "If it's really bad hospital food," she says, "then family members will sneak in food they like. And that's food they shouldn't be eating, which can be trouble."
But as far as whether or not the quality of the food does influence a person's recollection of their hospital experience? That goes without question. "All they remember. They don't care about the service and the cleanliness, they mostly care about the food," she says, before adding the biggest hospital bonus of all.
"And if you give them a bath."