Since the election of President Donald Trump, the hoped-for increase in economic growth is bearing fruit with record levels of employment, a booming stock market, rapidly rising manufacturing and service sector income, and strong optimism that local/ global businesses will continue to grow. The two factors stimulating this expectation include removal of regulations that restrict businesses and cause reduced investment in businesses, making product more expensive.
Regulations resulted in the unfortunate loss of many small businesses, this sector accounting for 60 percent of total U.S. GDP. Continued low-interest rates and a belief our government has become more business-friendly have stoked the fires of optimism. The icing on the economic-outlook cake continued with restructuring of restrictive levels of corporate taxes, opening up international markets, and lowering the tax burden on middle income tax payers, which will increase spending.
The recent ups and downs of the market have been expected by economists—stock owners locking in profits, worries of a rapidly-growing economy leading to inflation, and other yet-to-be resolved economic issues, including the expensive confusion within the 2.7 trillion-dollar healthcare sector of the U.S. economy.
COSTS, QUALITY AND REGULATIONS
A number of new initiatives within healthcare have improved the quality of patient-care through improved information sharing, increased time spent for each visit, and lowered costs of visits by utilizing offices and urgent care centers. Other cost-lowering initiatives include well-written patient education, patient motivation groups, and personal accountability through educational follow-up. Patient-centered medical homes have improved quality and are looking for decreased costs in the future. With most of these in effect, however, the cost of healthcare continues to rise. Why does this happen?
Government regulation of healthcare has generated cost increases in all areas. U.S. healthcare is a complex system, designed on a flawed for-profit model. Physicians, hospitals, and nursing homes are regulated by restricted payments by the government (Medicare/Medicaid) and insurance company reimbursements. The government has bombarded insurance companies with regulations adding required services to each policy they write. New restrictions were levied on the manufacturers of pharmaceuticals related to quality of production. Healthcare’s field of competition that leads to lower pricing is not level because of restricted payments and regulations.
CHANGE IN PRIORITIES
The first question to answer is: “Should healthcare be considered a for-profit sector or a government-controlled sector, with all the price fixing and expensive regulations?” The economic allegiance of insurance companies is to their stockholders. Those paying for insurance reimbursement services and expecting their healthcare to be covered are disappointed with higher co-pays/ deductibles and less coverage. Should healthcare coverage be owned by the people that pay premiums, and profit be returned to lower premiums to those who are being covered?
Second, is improving the quality of healthcare more important than covering every individual in our country with basic healthcare, coverage patients want and is affordable? With appropriate costs and reimbursements, most believe we can afford increased quality and universal coverage providing consistent basic healthcare for everyone.
Third, simplifying complexity in the healthcare system by making it simpler to understand will reduce confusion and mistrust for patients. Can we offer basic care, insurance choices for all— those with limited use along with those who need more comprehensive and catastrophic care for serious needs? How do we fix a system that currently has diverse sectors with different priorities, directions, restrictions, and economic pressures?
AGREEING ON PRIORITIES
Hopefully, as a nation we need to rethink our priorities we can agree on and restructure our current healthcare to align all areas with these priorities. A significant percentage of Americans agree that significant change in healthcare is essential.
Our first priority is to provide basic coverage for all citizens of the U.S., anyone with financial need who is disabled, along with adequate care for our guest workers from other countries. Basic care that is simple, provides coverage for common medical needs, and is available in all states for those traveling.
Our second priority should be affordability. Some other countries, such as Switzerland, maintain private healthcare offices, private hospital systems, and private nursing homes, which provide pharmaceuticals and medical supplies reimbursed by an insurance industry, keeping premium costs at 50 percent of the U.S. average premium.
A third priority is to simplify how we obtain care, how we pay for insurance, and how we allocate services to those with more needs while equitably sharing the cost for those who cannot afford care—and also provide mentoring for those who need assistance understanding and improving how lifestyle issues affect their health.
We need to consider significant changes to office and hospital based medical-care systems; to health insurance structure, payments and offerings; and to pharmaceutical and medical supply production and costs, with the goal of driving down the cost of healthcare, so we can all be covered and benefit from affordable, excellent quality of care known as American medicine.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of CVFP Medical Group.