Time to admit it “healthcare in the US is a mess”

  • Even with health insurance, more than a third of the respondents in a recent survey had spent all or most of their savings while sick. They are often faced with deductibles and co-payments; treatments their insurance won’t cover.
  • Among people with health insurance, more than 20 percent had trouble paying for basic necessities. More than a quarter had bills in collection, and 13 percent had borrowed money as a result of their illness.
  • The annual cost for a family to get health coverage from an employer plan rose 5% to $19,616 this year, according to recently released data from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • Workers contributed $5,547 for family coverage, on average, in 2018, up 65% since 2008, and $1,186 for single coverage.
  • About 25 percent of adults in a recent poll said that they or a family member have avoided seeking medical attention because of the cost.

Healthcare tops most lists of voters’ concerns in the US mid-term elections, but the media seems laser focused on attacking drug prices which only account for $.11 or every healthcare dollar spent.

Consider Arkansas.  For the second month in a row, over 4,000 Medicaid beneficiaries lost their health insurance after failing to meet work requirements for the program. The newest numbers, released Monday in a state report, come on the heels of a purge of 4,353 individuals in September, bringing the total number of people who have lost coverage to 8,462 in Arkansas.

That is outrageous.

Among people with health insurance, more than 20 percent had trouble paying for basic necessities. More than a quarter had bills in collection, and 13 percent had borrowed money as a result of their illness.

On top of this more than half of 1,054 patients with metastatic breast cancer who participated in a survey recently indicated they had stopped or were refusing treatments because of the cost, and 54% of those who were surveyed said they had been contacted by a debt collector because of an unpaid cancer-related debt. (Source:  symposium of the American Society of Clinical Oncology?

And how has pharma responded? Since the beginning of last year, 34 lawmakers have each received more than $100,000 from pharmaceutical companies . Two of those — Reps. Greg Walden of Oregon, a key Republican committee chairman, and Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican majority leader — each received more than $200,000, a new Kaiser Health News database shows.

What about digital health?

According to Fast Company “money continues to pour into the space–to the tune of nearly $12 billion in investment in 2017–but few companies have cracked the code for delivering technologies that truly transform healthcare”.

Consumer technology startups often push quickly to get a minimum viable product to market and then iterate to improve that product based on what most resonates with consumers. Entrepreneurs and investors from the tech world mistakenly assume that this “lean startup” approach, which works well for products like photo-sharing tools and meal-delivery apps, should be equally successful for tackling any kind of problem. However, this strategy is ill-suited to healthcare, a much more complex and regulated industry.

Pharma companies have pretty much continued to tow the company line rather than help address these problems.  They are making record profits and now are starting to lay-off employees to appease Wall Street.

Healthcare is a mess. Politicians can’t fix it, nor can voters.  It’s going to take an innovative, disruptive leader and I’m not sure anyone has the courage or money to accept the challenge.

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