In an ominous symptom of consumerism, patients overburdened by financial obligations are constricting cash flow to providers.
As the Trump administration and Congress bear down on Obamacare, the battle lines are being drawn in the struggle to attain a cost-effective transformation of healthcare services.
"Whether it is the delivery of services, or pharmaceuticals, or how we pay—we are playing politics with healthcare," says Olusegun Ishmael, MD, MBA, an emergency room doctor at Paris Community Hospital in Illinois and former health plan executive.
"It is not like building cars. Healthcare is about people's lives and the quality of life. Most people are going to be alive for a long time, and healthcare helps determine the quality of the life you are going to have."
The evolution of healthcare economics is placing a heavy financial burden on patients, who face a consumerism crossroads, the former health plan vice president says.
"I have talked with some of the nurses I work with; and, overnight, their deductibles have gone up and everybody has health savings accounts. The employer-sponsored insurance model is slowly being whittled away; and, when it is gone, the private individual is going to be left holding the bulk of the cost of their healthcare."
Thrusting higher levels of financial obligations on patients is having both positive and negative impacts, Ishmael says. "The good is [that] patients are going to be asking questions, and challenging people about costs and what treatments are for. The bad is that most patients are not going to be able to meet their costs."
Cost-shifting Constricts Provider Cash Flow
Jeff Goldsmith, PhD, associate professor of public health sciences at University of Virginia, healthcare futurist, and national advisor at Navigant, says overburdening patients financially threatens healthcare-provider cash flow.
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.