Future of health care reform remains murky

The Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce hosted a discussion on a topic drawing major attention in Congress – health care.

A panel of experts gathered for a breakfast program at Christus Health headquarters in Irving on Thursday, Sept. 21. The topic was “Health Care Reform: What Does the Future Look Like?”

Panelists talked about current trends, such as moving from a physician-centered industry to a patient-centric one, which gives patients more say in their treatment. Patients today are empowered with more data, and many remain distrustful of medical personnel, even though those in the medical field have gone to medical school for years to provide their diagnoses. Another trend is making medical information mobile in the digital age. Patients want everything, everywhere and yesterday.

Gary Socha, vice president of HealthMarkets Insurance Agency spoke about the health insurance exchanges, high premiums, and the continued exit of providers from the market place. In the past 20 years, health care options have grown to provide the most benefit-rich plans ever, Socha said. Nearly every plan now has maternity care and wellness care, and many plans also now have mental health coverage. However, access remains a struggle which may depend on political solutions. In Dallas-Fort Worth, only three major carriers are continuing to provide benefits, including Blue Cross Blue Shield.

An opportunity for everyone to build their own ideal health care plan and send it to the President and Congress now exists through the website: ourcarebill.org. The website asks for the user’s choices of different aspects of their ideal healthcare. Once the survey is completed, the site allows the user to send his or her own individual health care plan to the Administration. The message emphasized on the website is that ultimately, it is not Obamacare or Trumpcare, but Ourcare.

“The future of healthcare reform is murky,” Cindy Schamp, the president of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Irving, said. “How can we bring costs down and execute faster? Will that happen inside or outside the health care industry? It feels too slow.

“We need to have the health care industry working inside large, integrated networks like Baylor Scott & White has done with its Quality Alliance in order to drive care costs down. We did that with our own employees first. We felt we could not make a statement about improving care around the country without taking care of our own people first.”

Kelly Cook, former Global Vice President of Commercial Markets for Unisys Corporation, expressed his concerns about what is progressing us forward and what is holding us back from health care reforms. Cook emphasized there are nice-to-haves and have-to-haves, and the progress on have-to-haves, such as interconnectivity to share information, has been extremely slow. Right now, many smaller locations are only connecting with other small locations on their own unique networks, when the focus should be getting everyone connected to everyone else. Once interconnectivity exists between all health care providers, data management and data mining can happen and all doctors will be able to determine what medications will work based on every patient’s specific background. The future may also include artificial intelligence and robotics, but only after the required infrastructure and interconnectivity are provided first.

“Health care is complicated,” said moderator Britt Berrett, director of the Center of Healthcare Leadership and Management at UT Dallas. “Innovations will continue to come through, but key leaders must be involved. Consumers will demand exceptional care and must be engaged.” Britt also said there is not another country that gives better quality health care than the United States.

Asked if anything was missed during the discussion, panelists said the topics of rationing care and preventative care were mentioned but not discussed further since time ran out in the program. But each panelist provided their closing thoughts:

“Forty-seven percent of the United States population cannot handle a $400 hospital bill. Something fundamental needs to be done differently to transform health care so that it lives on,” said Keith Thurgood, PH.D., clinical professor of Healthcare Leadership and Management, University of Texas at Dallas.

“Having a good health care plan is very important,” said Gary Socha. “More health care carriers are needed back in the marketplace so consumers have more choices.”

“We spend so much money at ‘end of life,’” said Cindy Schamp. “Medically, we do it because we can, not because we should. What you want may not be what I want.”

“Telemedicine and telecare will become more widespread in the next five years,” said Kelly Cook.

“Those in the health care industry need to quicken their pace and find solutions,” said Britt Berrett.