Patterns in the Healthcare System: Clues to Repair
Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE
To me, a true entrepreneur is a person, who can see patterns that others can not see and act on those patterns to create an opportunity that no one thought existed.
KKR has a long history of success is discovering these patterns and investing in them in a leveraged way. A current purchase was Hospital Corporation of America. My guess it is the purchase was not through a process of intensive study of endless data and pilot studies. It is through a process of considering information and then visualizing the trends and patterns of the times. Once visualized, then you act and follow through. It is a no brainer unless there are bumps in the road.
Oceans of good and bad information are available about the healthcare system and its ills. In fact there are many nonsensical rules and regulations that distract physicians from their duty of delivering medical care. The easiest thing to do is for physicians to ignore the obligation we have to try and fix the system. At first glance, with all of the healthcare system’s complexity and all of the suggestions to fix the complexity it seems impossible to generate effective change.
It seems that everything that is done to improve the system ends up harming it even further. The most recent example is the windfall the 1983 DRG method created for hospitals. Now, implementation of a new DRG system based on cost rather than charges is delayed for one year. Dr. Mark McClellan resigned as director of CMS. My guess implementing the new system will be delayed even longer with his departure.
Recent examples are plentiful. One is the Medicare Part D benefit. The benefit was developed to help people of Medicare age. A $2,500 doughnut hole has been inserted to the disadvantage of the patient and the advantage of the pharmacy. The details are of the advantage are madding.
Another governmental error is the conversion of the concepts of Medical Savings Accounts into Health Savings Account by the congress who wants to fix the system. The Health Saving Account is a small deductible of $1000 as opposed to the original Medical Saving Accounts deductible of $6000 which gave the patient incentive to spend his dollar wisely. The Health Saving Account is to the advantage of the insurance company and not the patient. Additionally self employed older people can hardly afford or qualify for insurance if they could qualify. If qualified they would have to buy the insurance with after tax dollars rather the pre-tax dollars the employer pays.
In order to be an educated and wise consumer, one needs to know the price of the item. So far, hospitals, insurance companies, pharmacies, and pharmaceutical companies have refused to reveal the price of their services or payments in a transparent way. The government has published their reimburse schedule but you have to be a coding expert to figure it out. Then you have to know what codes the physicians and hospitals will use. Total opacity remains. It is in the hands of State licensing boards to insist of transparency. So far, not one governor has stepped up to the plate. President Bush has call for transparency but it has generated no action because a deadline has not been set.
The Commonwealth Fund just published a preliminary document advocating the government as the single party payer. We have just listed errors the government has made in the past. Imagine if everyone was insured under Medicare, how difficult and inefficient the system might be. I noticed the Chairman of the Commonwealth Fund study is the CEO of Partners Health in Massachusetts. John Monagan has been awarded a salary of over $2 million dollar for the profitable job he has done for Partners Health. I suspect his success is from his figuring out the reimbursement system from the old DRG system.
I truly believe the government wants to help the people. What is the pattern that creates these misfired initiatives? They misfire because of the inefficiency in hierarchical bureaucracy. The hierarchical bureaucracy is imbedded in all of our government agencies and in the body politic. Decisions are influenced by vested interests lobbying and not by common sense.
In the book High Noon, J Rischard points the way of coming to reasonable decisions for all the vested interests. Everyone needs to participate in the decision making process. It is by network problem solving for the common good and not hierarchical bureaucracy influenced by vested interests.
We, the people, can overcome this archaic structure. A system can be repaired that will cost less money. It would be is a system by the people for the people. There are lots of very smart people in America, who can figure out lots innovative solutions.
We, the people, have to be angry enough in order to have the will to act.