Many health care executives and professionals are wary, glass-half-empty people, conditioned by long experience to dwell on business risks. However, today’s health care environment is actually full of good news. Reflect on the following:
Expanding coverage. We’re on the way to cutting the number of uninsured Americans in half. No, we didn’t get to universal coverage with the Affordable Care Act. And its implementation has not been a pretty sight. But after decades of political failure, tens of millions of Americans are receiving coverage, no longer having to postpone care for serious health risks. Hospitals are already seeing their uncompensated care decline rapidly, especially in those states that expanded their Medicaid programs.
Cost crisis abated. We’ve achieved durable health cost stability. Since 2008, health costs have grown only 3.6 to 3.9 percent per year — growth rates not seen since the Eisenhower administration (five years before Medicare). The Congressional Budget Office recently forecast that 2016 per capita Medicare spending would be almost 30 percent lower than they projected in 2006. The difference, around $4,000 per capita, translates into a 2016 Medicare bill hundreds of billions of dollars lower than forecast in 2006. It’s worth repeatedly reminding policymakers that hard work from hospital executives and their clinical partners in controlling expenses and reducing readmissions have made a major contribution to this welcome cost stability.