Walmart, Amazon and Disney Declare War on Healthcare

by Dr. Josh Luke, Healthcare Futurist

Health and wealth. Two terms that were not so synonymous with each other in prior generations.

But now, Americans are facing a healthcare affordability crisis both at home and at work, and the list is growing of iconic companies declaring they’ve reached their tipping point on paying for healthcare for their employees.

It started with Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway in January 2018. Then Disney rang the bell in Florida. Now Walmart and several others have joined in. In fact, Walmart, one of the most efficient organizations in history in regard to managing costs without compromising quality, has seemingly adopted the “if you can’t beat em, buy ‘em mentality” as they are making a bid to buy Humana.

Although no one knows for sure, its not out of the picture to think that Amazon and Walmart could be two of the largest providers of commercial health insurance within five years. Or, that might not happen at all. But its an exciting proposition for those seeking alternatives to the current high cost insurers.

The most promising fact about 2018 proving to be the year American businesses are declaring they have reached their tipping point on healthcare affordability, is that American families have been attempting to declare their tipping point on the healthcare affordability issue for years without any success. But these companies carry a big stick!

But the American family has been powerless to drive change. Hospitals and insurers ignored families plea for help. Capitalism reigned, and the healthcare lobby’s are among the nation’s strongest, so little relief has been provided.

But with corporate America coming to the rescue, hospitals and insurers are taking notice but publicly attempting to brush it off as they always have.

Am I the only one that finds it ironic when a hospital pays for an advertisement with an emotional appeal to the community seeking donations for a capital campaign for a new building or facility, yet when community members seek care at that same hospital they are often unable to afford it?

Or when I turn a ball game on television and notice that almost every stadium ad is from local health systems?

This is the same hospital that refuses to post prices, even when you ask. What other business in America requires you to commit to and receive services without knowing the price in advance? And then you are provided little recourse for negotiation or questioning the quality of service after the fact. In the rare case (current stats show that less than 20 percent of hospitals in America post prices publicly) hospitals do share prices in advance, its inevitably with a disclaimer that states that prices can not but guaranteed and the real charges will be based on the specific items that doctors and hospital staff code during the procedure. Translation: Here is an estimate but there are no guarantees and very little recourse for you to challenge us after the fact.

As hospitals begin to feel the pressure as a result of corporate advocacy on the affordability issues, individuals and families can do their part by engaging in the healthcare process.

That’s right, we all need to become Engaged Healthcare Consumers (EHC). Once we begin shopping for Centers of Excellence, we will save ourselves significant dollars as well as our employer.

How do you personally become an EHC? Start by focusing on the 3P’s to becoming an EHC: Have a Plan that focuses on Preventative Care, as well as Personalized Care.  What does that mean? Get your DNA test done to better understand which medications work best for your body, as well as to identify high cost drugs you might be unnecessarily consuming. You can also utilize technology, from FitBits to Apple’s new App allowing you access to your personal health record. Seek out specialized disease  specific programs to better manage chronic diseases a family member may have. Practice Local Medical Tourism by seeking out Centers of Excellence for all procedures.

To date there has been little evidence suggesting any link between price and quality in healthcare.  In fact, those doctors who engage in the discussion about fair pricing are often getting higher quality scores than the high cost provider. These doctors and facilities that offer lower pricing and higher quality are known as Centers of Excellence, often referred to as within the narrow network.

So while corporate America has finally stepped up to lead the charge against hyperinflation in American healthcare, individuals can do their part by becoming Engaged Healthcare Consumers.

Dr. Josh Luke is an award winning Futurist, as well as a former hospital CEO, faculty for the University of Southern California, a Forbes Author and a two time Amazon #1 Best Selling Author. Dr. Luke contributes healthcare affordability content to both LinkedIn and Forbes, as well as several publications. For more information please visit www.Health-Wealth.com or www.DrJoshLuke.com.  A portion of this article appeared on Forbes.com.

For more information on the issues surrounding medical debt, please contact RIP Medical Debt.