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June 2009
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If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

One of the harsh realities of our current economic situation is the need to find a new base that works with the changing reality of our current and future world. For example, the auto industry has been forced quite painfully into this realization. The infrastructure the auto industry built was based upon having a 90 share of the US market and probably a 70% share of the world market. The financial industry is a similar example. Change generated a weight they could not bear.

As I read about the health care debate the similarities appear obvious. We have a health care system built upon a reality that no longer exists. We have a system that was built on local doctors (think local bankers) making house calls, taking care of anyone who was sick (loans to people they knew) and being paid by the family in whatever way the family could pay them. We have migrated to a system of conflicting corporate interests whose profit motives sure appear to be far greater than their stated reason for being — dispensing health care.

It is not hard to understand how we have gotten to where we are. The separation of haves from have-nots is not new in this country or any other for that matter. We only need to look around the world to see many variations on how to “best” dispense health-care with varying degrees of success.  Reed Abelson offered an interesting article in the June 14, 2009 New York Times Week in Review section titled Following the Money in the Health Care Debate.   His point is one’s perspective on health care is directly associated with their self-interest.

We are a nation who must find a solution to the rising health care costs and the diminishing level of care to people who need it. The focus has to be on what is the objective, not who makes what money. While possibly being overly simplistic, I believe the objective is simple. How do we deliver the best health care to the most people at an affordable price? We will succeed if all efforts are directed to this objective and not to  attempting to mollify the needs of all the vested interests.

I read a story this past week which I believe is illustrative even if it is a little off topic. For some time now it has been impossible to watch a TV show and not get blasted out of the room when a commercial comes on. When I asked my son, who is president of an ad agency, why this is happening his answer was the move to digital has made integration more difficult. He didn’t say impossible but more difficult. It appears members of Congress have noticed the same thing so they began hearings.

An industry association spokesperson (David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television ) said, the “bill could actually slow TV stations’ voluntary efforts to control commercial volumes because any FCC proceeding would generate wide debate and uncertainty”. There is no uncertainty about being blasted out of your living room by a commercial. The industry knows it is a problem, now Congress knows it is a problem and I venture to say the industry is not going to like the solution Congress decides on. My guess is it will add cost, take longer to implement and potentially not solve the real problem. But once again the broadcast industry will have a government solution dictated to them because they refuse to solve what seems to be a simple problem.

So much of current debates appear to be centered on political philosophy versus the objective. Often I hear people say or read that all the Obama administration wants to do is socialize everything. Well there is an alternative and that is for industry to take some responsibility to solve the problem themselves. If health care associations truly would represent their constituents and work together on an alternative plan versus fighting what is being debated in Congress I believe they would like the result much better. If there is any group who has the most prejudiced perspective and lacks the appropriate skill sets to address the health care objective it is Congress.
But here is the dilemma. We have a crisis in health care as we do in many other industries and the industry has chosen, mostly because of their desire to maintain the status quo and current levels of profit, to ignore the problem. They have left Congress no alternative than to intervene. So what we are left with is a growing crisis being solved by people least capable of finding the best solution.

It does not matter whether it is the auto industry, the financial industry or the health care industry the relevant executives continue to sit around thinking that somehow no one will notice we are in crisis and that their profits will continue to flow. Well it is time to wake up. The paradigm has shifted and industry executives must learn to work together. If they do not find a way to work together to solve these problems then not only will the problems get worse, the governmental solution will be regrettably onerous, not only to them but to we the taxpayers.

The lesson here is for all industries to understand the benefits of being proactive. If health care industry groups, whether they be hospitals, doctors or insurance companies, sit around either being complacent or just reactive (to Congress) it is a guarantee they will not like the result. Like what we just experienced in the auto industry and the financial industry, the health care industry is in crisis. The cost and complexity of keeping our society well has gotten totally out of sync with the needs of the consumer. Some months ago a collection of health care executives went to the White House in a show of cooperation. What they did not do and must do is go to the White House and Congress with a viable solution that works for them and for the consumer they serve. It is a sure bet that if they do not they will not like what they get..


Comment from jackie
Time June 14, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Good discussion, Peter. As Harold Klemp and many others would say, “with freedom comes responsibility”. Maybe industry, of late protected in its greed, needs to be squeezed a while by the ill finessed constraints of government control to actively appreciate the upside of self-discipline, “co-operation” and self regulation.

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