Now that the uncertainty is gone, it’s time to take a new look at the status of our healthcare industry. We have been working feverishly to carry out the requirements of the Act, and have already put a number of them into place, but much remains to be done.
Most importantly, I see a new dynamic in the industry today and a willingness to work together and innovate to deliver high-value, affordable healthcare. Much of this comes from an increasing realization by physicians, hospitals and health plans that most disease—some say as much as 70%—is preventable through lifestyle changes.
The new coordinated healthcare delivery models currently being embraced by the industry, such as Patient-centered Medical Homes (PCMHs) and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), provide a network of concerned caregivers whose job it is to help patients make those changes that lead to healthier lifestyles.
It’s not necessary to understand everything that stands behind these acronyms—just to know that these integrated delivery models pull the fragmented healthcare structure we have today into a true system for the first time, creating efficiency and raising quality. Combined with the savings created by lowering the rate of disease, the market will force down the cost of healthcare.
Think of the improved quality of life for Americans if we reached a goal of preventing even 35% of disease. If the cost of treating today’s level of disease were so dramatically reduced, think of the effect it would have on our economy, given that the rapidly increasing cost of healthcare is the primary force driving the federal deficit, and that treating chronic disease and dealing with preventable ailments is a major part of the amount spent.
The healthcare community cannot do it alone. It will take the full participation of healthcare consumers—you and me. We have to be willing to make some changes in our lifestyles and be accountable if this market-driven movement is to succeed. This will only happen once we begin to realize that healthcare begins at home.
Mike Reitz is the President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.