US healthcare players fail to take patient affordability seriously: Viewpoint

There is scant evidence major players in U.S. healthcare such as health insurers, health systems and trade groups look at patient affordability as a primary issue, according to Paul Keckley, writing Sept. 11 in his weekly Keckley Report.

Increasing disaffection with the healthcare system is likely to intensify as Congress gears up for another showdown on a possible federal budget default Oct. 1, according to the report. The possible default highlights the oversized role healthcare plays in the national economy with consumers still not getting a fair look-in, Mr. Keckley writes.

"Does it [healthcare] merit its oversized role, given competing priorities emerging in our society — AI and technology, climate changes, income, public health erosion, education system failure, racial inequity, crime and global tension with China, Russia and others?" he asks.

The growing consumer and political skepticism about the U.S. healthcare sector comes even as there has been progress in improving the environment for consumers such as limiting surprise medical bills, curbing aggressive debt collection and offering more telehealth opportunities.

"Affordability to consumers is the most formidable challenge facing the US healthcare industry — more than burnout, operating margins, reimbursement or alternative payment models," the report says. "Today, it is not taken seriously by insiders. If it was, evidence would be readily available and compelling. But it's not."

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