I attended TriNet’s People Force virtual conference on Wednesday, October 21, where I listened in on the “Health Care Trends: Hang On, It Could be a Wild Ride” session. The session was moderated by Edward Griese (Senior Vice President of Insurance Services, TriNet) who interviewed Dr. Kaveh Safavi and Arthur M. Southam, MD.
Dr. Kaveh Safavi (Senior Managing Director, Global Health Practice, Accenture) and Arthur M. Southam, MD (Executive Vice President, Health Plan Operations and Chief Growth Officer, Kaiser Permanente) are healthcare professionals who provided their insight into healthcare trends from healthcare and medical costs to COVID-19 impacts and more.
Healthcare costs continue to skyrocket
On healthcare costs, the interviewees agreed that costs are rising, both in the United States and globally. In contrast to wages, only going up 27% in the past ten years, employee deductibles have increased 111%, and family premiums are up 55% (kff.org).
The conversation about how the healthcare trend has been on the rise for the last 50 years started and the interviewees responded to the idea of the “bending the curve” healthcare trend.
“Ever since we’ve been measuring healthcare costs in the United States, it’s grown at a rate of about 1 to 3% faster than GDP. And it turns out that number is identical if you look at basically all rich countries. The real question in any country is how fast are healthcare costs growing in that country relative to that country’s ability to pay because, in every country, healthcare is paid for by the public sector,” Dr. Kaveh Safavi said.
Dr. Safavi explained that the most important gap to close is the one between raising taxes and cutting other government programs, which is what happens if the healthcare costs grow faster than GDP.
He said over the next 20 years, the healthcare industry will have to think about our sector the way other industries have, using a lens of productivity and asking the question: “how do you shift work from humans to machines?”
Improving access during a pandemic
We can all say that there are hardly any conversations that transpire nowadays where COVID-19 doesn’t come up. From a clinical perspective, Mr. Griese asked the question, what are the unintended consequences of lockdowns, masks, the fear of having a procedure during COVID, and what are the providers doing to improve access?
“We’ve created a set of unknowns that we’re all going to have to manage through. The disease itself is a novel disease. And any attempt to try to explain it is constantly confounded by the next discovery about how the disease works,” Dr. Kaveh Safavi said.
However, a point that stuck with me was that the COVID journey requires a bit of humility, not only from caregivers but by policymakers. Healthcare professionals are making the best decisions they can with the current information but may recognize something later that makes the old recommendation wrong. Rather than vilifying people for being wrong, it is crucial to remember we are all learning together, day by day.
“I think that everyone has learned humility, institutionally and individually, and it emphasizes the importance of resilience and agility. If you think the same things you’ve been doing are going to serve you under all sorts of scenarios, it’s not going to happen,” Arthur M. Southam, MD said. “We’ve realized that how we do things needs to get called into question, whether it’s how we build buildings, whether it’s our supply chains, etc.”
This was an insightful conversation that shed light on how we must all try and work together to keep each other safe, healthy, and prepare for those black swan events that will eventually happen and need to be taken seriously.
Interested to learn more?