Viewpoint: How one physician overcame his bias against for-profit healthcare

When Ali Khan, MD, was a medical student, intern and resident, he always imagined he would find a career in a nonprofit organization "with a laser-like focus on transforming underserved health," he wrote in an op-ed for STAT.

But that's not what life had in store for him. Instead, he found a job at a private sector, for-profit primary care organization: Boston-based Iora Health. It was through this experience Dr. Khan learned there is not an innate "moral superiority" to working at a nonprofit organization, he wrote.

In fact, simply being tax-exempt doesn't always mean such organizations act without money in mind. Dr. Khan cited recent examples such as NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital's decision — which was later reversed — to close a family medicine residency program that would have cut services to an impoverished New York City community, or Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital's controversial concurrent surgery policy.

Though many for-profits truly are focused on the money — Dr. Khan cites a study that found 49 of the 50 hospitals with the highest price markups were for-profit — there is an emerging class of mission-driven for-profits, as his experience at Iora showed him.

While working with Iora Health, which operates with the motto, "We're restoring humanity to healthcare," Dr. Khan spent three years providing healthcare services for union workers in Las Vegas. There the Iora team helped reduce emergency department visits and inpatient hospital care by almost 50 percent, according to Dr. Khan.

And Iora Health is not alone, he wrote. For-profits like Qliance, ChenMed and CareMore, and even insurers like Oscar, Collective Health and Harken Health, are also focused on the social good, according to Dr. Khan.

"When I look at the evidence, I wonder: Why did we ever think that tax status differentiates good and evil? A new narrative is emerging: profit and societal good need not live in opposition when considered thoughtfully — and driven by a robust social mission," Dr. Khan wrote.

Read the full op-ed here.


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