POLICY/HEALTH PLANS: Has George changed his tune?

Found this Interview with KP CEO George Halvorson put out in January. Here he is talking about single payer

PwC: Are there other practices you see overseas that you think are importable?George Halvorson: One of the nice things about almost every other country, particularly the ones with single-payer systems, is that they focus very heavily on primary care. Most health-care costs come from a very small number of people: 1% of the population represent 40% of the costs; 10% of the people represent 80% of the costs, etc. So the largest potential you have for changing the total cost of health care is to focus on that small group of people and take care of them appropriately. And the only really effective way to focus on those people is with primary care. You need to intervene medically with those people before diseases progress to the point where they’re extremely expensive. And that requires a primary-care model.Countries with single-payer systems all have put in place extensive primary care, and employ much less expensive specialty, secondary and tertiary care. That’s actually not a bad model, because what you end up with is fewer people needing a heart transplant. If you need a heart transplant, you may be less likely to get it in those other countries. But if you have really good primary care, you’re much less likely to actually need the heart treatment.PwC: Does that mean there are trade-offs regarding care?George Halvorson: Only if you have to decide where you’re going to invest. If you decide to invest in the primary care part of the equation, then you eliminate the need for some of those very expensive treatments. On the other hand, if you don’t invest in the prevention part of the agenda, then you have to invest much more heavily on the tertiary side of the equation. It’s a cost trade-off for the system. For the patient, think of the quality-of-life perspective: Would you rather have a massive heart attack, or would you rather be treated by a primary care doctor? It makes more sense to focus on early prevention and not on the tertiary care rescue model.

It’s a sensible and pretty accurate description. But that’s not exactly the terms he was using about single payer more recently at the Commonwealth Club when his description of single payer used the terms “rationing”, “Canadians coming to the US” and he alluded to single payer being like the prison health care system. I wonder what changed his tune? Was his body invaded a la Harry Potter movies by Sally Pipes?

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