Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

October 30, 2013

Health care financier shares how small town experience shaped him

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

ALTAMONT — For a guy who grew up on the family farm south of Altamont and pumped gas at his dad's filling station, Jerry Berg has done quite well for himself.

Berg shared some keys to success at the fall Community Celebration of Excellence breakfast sponsored by the Effingham County Vision 2020 community development organization. Wednesday's breakfast was held at the new Carriage House Events Center on the south end of Altamont.

Berg, who lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with his family, has made a career out of helping health care facilities maintain financial stability after earning a bachelor's degree at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a MBA at Cornell University. He is also a certified public accountant.

"I'm overwhelmed, to say the least," Berg said. "I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to speak."

Berg said he has never forgotten where he came from.

"This community has helped make me who I am," he said. "Who we are impacts how we see the world and how others see us."

Berg said he learned many valuable lessons about life from growing up in Altamont.

"I had daily interaction with people in a business setting," he said. "I learned that you have to be serious about what you are doing."

Berg said growing up where he did also gave him opportunities he might not have had in an urban or suburban area.

"Growing up in a small town also encourages participation," he said.

Berg told the group of more than 300 people about his job as a health care finance specialist.

"What is it I do? I work with hospitals and talk to them about debt capacity and evaluate their financial projections," he said.

Berg also spoke about the impact the federal Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, will have on the economy in general and health care in particular.

"It will be disruptive to the American economy," he said. "Is this the best way to go? Time will tell."

Berg said the ACA could impact the health care industry in a number of ways, including a potential loss of local control over health care as a result of increased federal mandates. But he added that the ACA also has some potential positives.

"We have greater potential for standardization of care, as well as more access to care," he said.

Berg reminded the breakfast group that the ACA isn't the first major change in the American health-care system.

"You can go back to 1946 and the Hill-Burton Act, which got many hospitals built," Berg said. "Then in 1965, we got Medicare, which introduced the concept of cost-based reimbursement."

"We've seen change before," he said.

Berg also had some parting words of advice.

"I came here to thank you, not tell you what to do," he said. "But be who you are.

"Help your children achieve their potential, so they can lead full and productive lives."

Berg was preceded by the musical talents of Altamont students on both the grade and high school levels.

The next Community Celebration of Excellence is set for April 10, 2014, at the Dieterich High School gymnasium.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com