Mercer.US consulting services recently issued two articles titled, “Trump Campaign Lists Second-Term Healthcare Priorities” and “What Employers Need to Know About Biden’s Healthcare Polices”.
The key take-way is no one knows what will happen. Much like other campaign rhetoric, solutions to the US health care system are not simple fixes. Additionally, some platform proposals require bi-partisan congressional agreement prior to implementation. It appears Biden’s approach supports building on the Affordable Care Act, while Trump’s approach lacks specifics. Biden explains certain steps he wants to pursue; conversely Trump’s policy categories do not address achievable methodologies.
Neither candidate espouses to eliminate employer sponsored health plans. Biden initially wanted to reduce Medicare eligibility to age 60, but has backed away from this position. Biden does support a public option in addition to the HealthCare.Gov similar to a Medicare model. Both candidates support reducing the price of prescription drugs. Employer health plans have lots of experience when it comes to changes benefiting Medicare and taking away tax advantages to pharmaceutical companies. Simply put – if a hospital is reimbursed less by Medicare, their private pay fees increase accordingly; hence employer sponsored plan cost also increases.
As the baby boomer age wave moves though the economy, health care cost continues to present significant pressure on the GDP. Technology is another driver introducing critical new drugs and medical equipment, though at very high prices. Many health care providers and companies will be called on to provide more services in the future and they have a responsibility to stockholder expectations.
Perhaps the solutions lies with investing and incenting people to adopt healthy lifestyles, rather than looking for efficient ways to treat illness. There is an old adage by some hospital administrators – “We make more money by treating cancer than we do by curing it.” So, while treating unavoidable illness is necessary, having healthier people does significantly reduce total treatment cost.
Regardless of the election outcome – treating medical conditions and funding the related provider expenses is not going to go away. Employer sponsored plans gained prominence during the 1940s and ever since then we have been looking for ways to mitigate the cost. The election and the ensuing 4 years, will not solve the cost crisis. Hopefully we can ‘bend the curve’ and better manage health care cost.