Sally Pipes, of the Pacific Research Institute, spoke a few weeks ago at Wheaton College (Go Thunder!), and Michael Baker and I had the opportunity to attend this event titled “The Healthcare Labyrinth-Where Do We Go From Here?” Ms. Pipes (Link to Bio) is a respected industry thought leader and provided a very interesting look behind the scenes of government policy. I’d like to share some of her thoughts and our collective feedback.
Since the Obamacare law was passed in March of 2010, we’ve seen unprecedented change with very few seeing a positive effect. Ms. Pipes put it well in saying, “so much changed for the help of so few.” The goal of this legislation was to help the uninsured and create more affordable options, and, unfortunately, we still have these challenges. The exchanges ‘only’ have 11 million people enrolled, far from the predicted 24 million. The young invincibles have not enrolled in the quantities the insurance companies expected, totaling just 26% instead of the hoped for 40% of total enrolled population. This lack of enrollment has created massive losses for insurance companies, causing them to either entirely pull out of markets or change pricing and coverage. A strong argument can be made that even those enrolled are not “insured” as their coverage has very high deductibles, high rates, and small networks, making care almost as inaccessible as before. Despite all the flaws, her discussions with lawmakers on the hill do not hint at repeal happening anytime soon.
Peoples’ natural inclination is to think that single payer is the answer to the ACA’s shortcomings. Ms. Pipes made a vehement argument against this type of government involvement, pointing out the VA and Canada’s system as examples of what we don’t want; in Canada, the average wait time to see a specialist is just over 21 weeks, and 63,000 Canadians come to the USA for care every year. As far as the VA is concerned, one only need google search to find the multiple abuses and issues within this government run healthcare plan. She quibbles with the reliability of the often-referenced statistic that healthcare outcomes are better in other countries for lower cost (i.e. What do they count as live birth? Many factors effect average age of mortality). Also, worth noting is that the vast majority of R&D continues to take place in the USA which does cost us more money but serves the world with better care.
So, what can we do now? Ms. Pipes had some ideas, and we do too. I think it can best be summed up as, let’s get creative. Ms. Pipes pointed to empowering doctors and patients with more information (access to primary care and pricing and quality transparency). Let’s fix the tax laws that only benefit employer provided healthcare and reform medical malpractice. Let’s make High Deductible Health Plans alongside Healthcare Savings Accounts the norm so we continue to drive consumerism in healthcare. These ideas, along with promoting Wellness programs in the workplace and utilizing technology to identify and address gaps in care, will help achieve some of the goals this law intended to accomplish. We’ve had tremendous success helping our clients navigate the labyrinth—and are always available to guide you on your journey.