During the home stretch of this year’s presidential election cycle, Bill Clinton peppered a stump speech with a reflection on the challenges Americans face in affording health care. The choice word he used to describe the current system was “crazy,” which instantly emerged as a political flashpoint. Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, summarized the former president’s intended message succinctly: “[Obamacare] has been a success, but there’s still more to do.”
Love it or hate it, observers across the political spectrum agree that the Affordable Care Act has succeeded in providing 20 million Americans with access to health insurance. Most also agree that it has not solved the fundamental challenge of making care more affordable.
Deductibles have risen by 67 percent since 2010. The average deductible for individuals with a bronze plan on the health insurance exchanges in 2016 is $5,700—an amount a patient may blow through during a single visit to the emergency department. For patients in the American healthcare system, financial risk has reached epidemic levels.
No matter the outcome of the Nov. 8 election, policymakers will only be able to do so much; there is only so much money to go around. Meanwhile, prices continue to skyrocket and waste remains rampant. The solutions need to be owned by those who are working on behalf of patients every day—nurses, financial administrators, physicians, and others on the front lines.
Here’s what those of us in that group see every day: Even though health care is the most expensive service that the average American will spend money on in his or her lifetime, at the point of service we are rarely able to tell patients what their care will cost. Beyond the dollars and cents, we struggle to explain whether the services we are recommending are worth it. And when care is both expensive and worth it, we fall short in marshaling existing resources that can help patients better manage the financial burdens of care. Such concerns led us in 2009 to form Costs of Care, a nonprofit led by frontline caregivers who wanted to call attention to these issues.
This year, Costs of Care is partnering with HFMA, which has long been at the forefront of price transparency efforts, and Consumer Reports on a Story Contest, which seeks to shed light on ways to address costs in health care. We want to hear directly from all of you. Send us your real-life stories of the challenges in helping patients afford care and the innovative ways in which you or your organization is striving to overcome these challenges.
We recruited the titans of our industry to cull through the top submissions—Andy Slavitt (acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), Bill Frist (heart transplant surgeon and former Senate majority leader), Sarah Kliff (senior editor of Vox.com), Glenn Steele (former CEO of Geisinger Health System), and Pat Mastors (executive director of the Patients’ View Institute). Stories received by Dec. 1, 2016, will be eligible for awards, including $4,000 in prizes and recognition from Costs of Care, HFMA, and Consumer Reports.
Learn more here:
Neel Shah, MD, is the founder of Costs of Care, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, and co-author of the book Understanding Value-Based Healthcare.