For veterans of the healthcare industry, the current debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act – and proposed changes that would fundamentally alter Medicaid and individual market exchanges – is a frustrating battle of ideologies with the future of healthcare at risk. Our debate over who should be eligible for expanded coverage and how we reform reimbursement is often laced with self-preservation, which in our case means preserving an employer-sponsored system that is riddled with inequities, opacity, dubious middlemen and weak public and private sector fiduciary oversight. Those who provide, pay for and/or consume healthcare are drowning under rising per capita costs while many in the middle of these transactions grow fat.
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Perhaps the worst offenders are certain larger Pharmaceutical Benefit Managers (PBMs) who engage in opaque pricing, formulary manipulation and contractual games of semantics to maximize their share of profit from drugs they neither produce nor consume. The roster of enablers magnifies the problem with consultants, brokers and agents who charge for services that they often cannot deliver in managing RX benefits. Caveat emptor to the generalist HR buyer who, in good faith, hires a generalist broker to manage a highly complicated pharmacy contract with an educated PBM.
Employers are often more focused on avoiding disruption than acting as responsible fiduciaries to drive market reforms. By abdicating to their insurers or a less than qualified advisor, employers have failed to drive fundamental market reforms that would otherwise slow or reverse the inevitable march toward a single payer system as a means to escape the unsustainable consumption and financing of healthcare. Market reform requires change agents and reformers. Its seems that only when faced with regulated or market based disintermediation does the brokerage and consulting community wake up to the need to change the system.
Article reposted with permission from Michael Turpin a 35 year veteran of healthcare and employer sponsored insurance. He has served as CEO of Oxford and United Healthcare Northeast as well as a national practice leader for Mercer, USI, Marsh and Johnson & Higgins. He is a published author of three books and a frequent speaker and contributor to public and private forums.