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A plea for feedback: How do we change our health care system?

December 27, 2013
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At the end of the year I like to step back from the day-to-day human resource issues and take a philosophical look at HR practices. However, this year it seems appropriate, with the principal phase of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act about to kick off, that we look specifically at the health care issue.

A day has hardly gone by since the first of October that there hasn’t been something in the news about the program, such as keeping your plan, enrollment matters, the viability, political battles, and what businesses and insurance companies should do.

Even as a person with substantial interest in the matter, I’m tired of the focus on this piece of legislation. One of the reasons is because I and many others believe that in all the discussion we are missing the main issue: The U.S. health care system is broken.

Most people in this country think our system of care is the best and we shouldn’t mess with it because it might have negative repercussions on those of us who get regular health care treatment. This is our first problem: We lack true understanding of our system in comparison to other health care systems and other related matters.

The repercussions of good health affect nearly everything in our lives. It doesn’t matter whether we are speaking of work, play, family matters, the economy, retirement — you name it. Health plays a role in some fashion.

So why do we shy away from reports that tell us we aren’t as healthy as other nations? Are we afraid to know we have lower life expectancy, that our care practices cost double of other developed nations, and that we have millions of people without access to care? 

By not knowing, the problem is not going away.

For the moment, let’s assume we agree there is a problem and we want to learn about it and clearly understand it. How do we do this and who should do this to solve the problem? Is it the people in the medical services industry who have the responsibility? Is it our politicians? Is it the insurance companies or other businesses? Is it the public at large?

Recently, the Alliance for Health, a local nonprofit organization that tries to bring interested parties together to deal with health-care-related matters, invited interested people to come to a showing of the movie “Escape Fire, The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare.” It was held at Celebration Cinema and attracted a full house. Most of the people in the audience had more than a passing involvement with health care, including a number of physicians, insurance brokers and human resource managers.

The movie was a comprehensive look at what is happening in our system, including the U.S. military’s health care practices. Much of the information was known to various people, but there were some surprising points made, such as the cost of health care. One example showed that if the price of eggs rose at the same rate as the price of health care from 1947 to the present, a dozen eggs would cost $55.

A panel discussion followed the movie. When folks started to focus on how to solve the problem, there was no consensus.

I believe today’s approach to change is too fragmented. We have to reach a strong consensus on where to focus our energy to make any true progress. Otherwise, we will inch along and be at the mercy of the folks who control the money in the system.

How do we reach a consensus? Perhaps the first step is to get the options on the table. The second step is to organize the options by priority. The third step is to define clearly what we want to change in the chosen arena. The fourth step is to organize and implement a plan to drive change. Then we start over again and hit the next priority. 

Planning the change is somewhat easy. The execution is the critical factor. You can’t allow the factors of resistance to overtake the drive.

So let’s begin. I’ve got a list of 17 factors people believe can prompt notable change to our health care system. Contact me at info@p3hrcs.com for the list. Then I’ll ask for feedback and see what others think. 

There may be some overlap, but we can sort that out later. I’ll report what transpires and see if the readership of the Grand Rapids Business Journal can come together in some fashion to provide a regional perspective. Perhaps we can then work on step three. Tell me what you think!

Ardon Schambers is president of P3HR Consulting & Services LLC.

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