In ancient Athens, the philosopher Diogenes wandered the daylight markets holding a lantern, looking for what he termed, “an honest man.”
It seems since the dawn of the consumer economy that customers and buyers have traded most heavily on a single currency – trust.
Three millennia later, our financial system still hinges on the basic premise that the game is not rigged and any trusted intermediary is defined by a practitioner who puts his client’s interests ahead of his own.
Anyone responsible for procurement of healthcare may feel like a modern-day Diogenes as they wander an increasingly complex market in search of transparent partners and aligned interests. The art of managing medical costs will continue to be a zero-sum game where higher profit margins are achieved at the expense of uninformed purchasers.
It’s often in the shadowed areas of rules-based regulation and in between the fine print of complex financial arrangements that higher profits are made.
Are employers too disengaged and outmatched to manage their healthcare expenditures?
Are the myriad intermediaries that serve as their sentinels, administrators and care managers benefiting or getting hurt by our current system’s lack of transparency and its deficit of information?
As the first snowflakes of change fall on the eve of health reform, HR professionals may soon wake up to an entirely transformed healthcare delivery landscape. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) clearly will impact every stakeholder that currently delivers or supplies healthcare in the United States.
While the structural, financial, behavioral and market-based consequences of this sweeping storm of legislation will occur unevenly and are not fully predictable, this first round of healthcare legislation is designed to aggressively regulate and rein in insurance market practices that have been depicted as a major factor in our “crisis of affordability” and to expand coverage to an estimated 30 million uninsured. However, fewer than 30 percent of employers polled in a recent National Business Group on Health survey believe reform will reduce administrative or claims costs.
Yet, it is unlikely that reform will be repealed. For all its imperfections, PPACA is the first in a series of storm systems that will move across the vast steppe of healthcare over the next decade resulting in a radically different system. Whether reform concludes with a single payer system or emerges as a more efficient public-private partnership characterized by clinical quality and accountability remains obscured by the low clouds and shifting winds of political will. One thing is certain during these first phases – inaction and lack of planning will cost employers dearly.Continue reading…