The U.S. Healthcare System
The U.S. healthcare system is the worst among high-income nations, according to a study cited in Newsweek. Christian Fletcher, CEO of LifeBrite, recently explained in an interview for Authority Magazine why he thinks the U.S. is falling so far behind and what he believes we can do to fix it.
“I think the crucial issues rest not so much with the provision of care itself,” Fletcher says, “but with the business side of healthcare.” He suggests that the three reasons for the low ranking of our healthcare system involve lack of oversight for commercial insurance payers, the rising cost of medical school, and the conflict between healthcare providers and payers.
Lack of oversight for commercial insurance payers
First, Christian Fletcher points out that the “U.S. healthcare system lacks clear direction and oversight of commercial insurance payers.” He goes on to explain, “Premiums for patients continue to increase, yet providers rarely are the recipients of those increases and somehow patient out-of-pocket is simultaneously increasing.”
Fletcher believes the U.S. should implement tighter oversight of commercial insurance providers “to ensure a level playing field for independent providers in contract negotiations and network participation.”
The rising cost of medical school and decreasing salaries
The second reason he gives for why Christian Fletcher believes U.S. healthcare is failing is that rising medical school debt and decreasing salaries are causing “great minds to pursue other professions.” Fletcher goes on to say, “this could start to affect care as it reduces the optimal provider pool.”
According to Nerdwallet, an estimated 75% of 2018 graduates from medical colleges carry educational debt. These graduates carried an average debt burden of $196,520. With all of the coverage in the news about how many people are struggling to pay off their student debt in the U.S., it’s no wonder great talent is shying away from these expensive degrees.
Fletcher offers a solution and suggests that many of the problems in healthcare could be alleviated if more “great minds” felt encouraged to enter the field of medicine. He proposes that student loans be forgiven “for those who choose careers in much-needed fields of medicine. This would incentivize top talent to pursue healthcare careers in areas of high impact.”
Conflict between healthcare providers and payers
Finally, Christian Fletcher explains that “despite — and in some cases because of — the move toward value-based care, clear conflicts of interest between payers and providers currently remain in day-to-day operations.” These conflicts exist because providers (doctors) “need to generate encounters for financial viability,” and payers (insurance providers) “hope providers decrease encounters to increase profitability. As a result, patients get caught in the middle without ideal coverage.”
According to Fletcher, U.S. healthcare needs an overhaul on the business side of things. He explains, “The first change I’d promote is one we at LifeBrite are already moving toward: value-based care. We must continue to create incentives for when providers perform quality services that keep patients healthy and get them better faster, rather than encouraging high service volumes.”
Additionally, Fletcher suggests that our healthcare system can do more to “ensure greater reimbursement transparency for patients and providers alike.” He believes patients should know how much a service will cost them. According to Health Affairs, one in five inpatient emergency department cases lead to surprise bills, and more transparency upfront would be a step toward preventing this.
“At the end of the day,” says Christian Fletcher, “I believe healthcare can benefit from healthy competition and alignment on one simple mission – doing what is best for the patient.”
Learn more about LifeBrite
Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. Learn more about what LifeBrite Laboratories is doing to make healthcare better.