Addicted to medicine

Addicted to medicine

By Paul Breslau

I believe that our society is addicted, in general, to medical treatments and inefficient, expensive health care. And until we overcome this addiction, our communities are in for challenging times. Admitting that our society is addicted is step one.

Evidence of the societal addiction includes the fact that U.S. health care spending is approaching 20 percent of our gross domestic product. Also, the largest employer in many states, cities, and towns is the health care industry. For example, in 2016 the Arizona Republic named Banner Health as our state’s largest employer.

My fellow agents and I are intimately involved in business and family health care costs. The premiums become more prohibitive each year. Simultaneously, deductibles and copays cause significant personal financial difficulty and provide barriers to people that truly need health care. “The good news is you’re alive, the bad news is you can’t afford it,” from my first Airpark News article in the November 2004 issue, becomes more relevant each year.

In my opinion, insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital companies work with government to make health care in America complicated, opaque, inefficient and expensive. Random 2016 revenue reports illustrate the vast resources consumed: UnitedHealthcare’s reported $185 billion revenue in 2016; Aetna’s $63 billion,; BlueCross of Arizona made $1.6 billion; pharmaceutical revenues for McKesson were $170 billion; Express Scripts, $160 billion; CVS, $170 billion; Johnson & Johnson, $72 billion; Roche, $50 billion; Pfizer, $53 billion. Banner Hospitals reported revenue of $7.6 billion in 2016. For 2018, the Arizona AHCCCS budget request update is $1.45 billion.

The root cause

The numbers are staggering and continue to climb. What is the root cause? The way taxes, insurance, laws, litigation, etc. are structured.

Capitalism and free enterprise are fundamental to our economy and I’m certainly not arguing against revenues and profits. New treatments and pharmaceuticals are expensive and must continue to be developed. However, how can we as governments, businesses and people continue to afford this? We need an Amazon or Tesla breakout. We also need thousands of entrepreneurial initiatives to start eating the medical addiction elephant one bite at a time.

Most solutions thus far have been ineffective including pre-Obamacare, Obamacare, Trumpcare or whatever comes next. Also, insurance companies focus on Short Term Health and GAP polices that are helpful to many people but do not address long-term improvement. Democrats and Republicans are not working together on a national or state level. This is not right and won’t help bring effective solutions. The idea of letting current health systems fail will hurt government, the private sector and families. And not providing needed medical treatments for the elderly, infants, and all people is wrong. How can we get down and fix the root causes of these problems?

As you may know from my prior articles, there is an Airpark business called Redirect Health that is focused on fundamental fixes. The concepts they promote are examples of the continuous improvement that will start positive solutions for every government, nonprofit and business: cost transparency, less administrative cost and waste, promoting health rather than just treating illness, cutting out insurance companies from care as much as possible and more. To learn more, please consult with your health insurance agent or contact David Slepak, Redirect Health’s director of business development, at 480-747-1621.

How agents can help

Having represented hundreds of Arizona employers over the last 20 years, I know that this addiction intervention will continue as a David versus Goliath war. Winning little battles may start turning the tide in a war that may sink us all. There are ongoing initiatives from Aetna, BlueCross, Health Net, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and many others in health insurance that may continue to catch hold. Banner, HonorHealth, Dignity Health and other hospital systems also continue to experiment with new approaches and solutions.

My partners and I are available to discuss in greater detail by phone or in person. This may improve the situation for your business in 2018. As always, your questions, comments and suggestions are welcome. Please take a minute and reach out. 

Paul Breslau, Registered Health Underwriter (RHU), Registered Employee Benefit Consultant (REBC), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Chartered Advisor for Senior Living (CASL), is President of Breslau Insurance & Benefits Inc. Contact: 602-692-6832; or