Frequently, when I go to work, I get in my car and drive to New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey or to the airport. That’s the life of a home-based writer. Last week was a little different. I got in my car and drove 5 minutes to a speech by healthcare futurist Joe Flower sponsored by the local Blue Cross affiliate. So, I mention this because proximity brought me there, and I am very glad this happened in my backyard.
Joe Flower is a good speaker in the tradition of a performer. He is engaging and his slides are entertaining. His dry subject comes to life with humor and some good graphic design. So, let’s get beyond style to substance.
I’ve spent part of my career writing managed care training, including the history of managed care. Some of Joe Flower’s history of the US healthcare system was strained through a pro-ACA sieve. The bottom line of his storyline is that presidents of both stripes have been trying to get universal coverage and mandate through the reluctant Congress and recalcitrant American people since 1900, and this president finally made it happen. Hallelujah! We’re finally all covered. Well, in some corners, the jury may still be behind closed doors on that.
However, the upshot of his speech was the future of healthcare. It is here that I was wholly in agreement with Mr. Flower. He discussed the promise of technology making healthcare inexpensive and accessible to everyone, everywhere, as long as they have a wireless connection. That sounds about right to me, too. If the past is chequered, the present holds great promise. Right?
His audience found the “yes, but”. When he took a few questions from attendees, the first speaker was a small businessman who saw his insurance rates for himself and his employees rise 42% in the last year and his doctors leaving practice. He asked how he was expected to sustain this.
Another attendee looked unimpressed, as well. “It is very difficult to make the thoughts actionable,” she said to me flatly when I asked her opinion about the speech in the elevator.
We can retell history in any number of ways, choosing to interpret or reinterpret the meaning of cost and price trajectories or the actions of presidents and Congress over the last century. We can look forward with rose-colored glasses to what is possible given the current, incredible technology.
But for those payers and patients on the ground everyday, trying to pay their bills and get care, it’s just a good speech.