I’ve been watching a confluence of events over the past few months, and have been looking at strategies for physicians to pursue in the near term. As a nation, the US is slowly moving towards universal health coverage. Employers have once again turned to prevention as one strategy to lower costs and improve productivity, and the rise – once again – of walk-in clinics for minor illnesses offers the promise of lower cost and fast turnaround.
One the the unfolding event is the Wal-mart syndrome. Wal-mart offers a poor health insurance plan for some employees, and their top benefits person proposed to the board of directors that the company implement policies to further reduce their employee healthcare costs. The second is the spread of walk-in clinics in retail stores, staffed by nurse practitioners. The third is the move among several states to require that large employers (Wal-Mart being the main target) either provide health insurance or pay into a state fund. This move got a boost yesterday when Massachusetts passed legislation to require just that, joining Hawaii – and the rest of the industrialized world – in a system of univeral health coverage. The Kaiser Foundation has an excellent summary of this bill and related actions around the country. OK – so what does the average physician do about it?
From a business perspective, the move is clearly afoot to drag the US to universal health care financing. It does not mean that it will be a government run program, save for those who can’t qualify for private insurance, nor does it mean a socialized healthcare program such as Great Britain.