Healthcare has become one of those “just don’t go there” topics in the United States, and this unspoken rule goes way beyond the family dinner table. The divide has become so polarizing that even healthcare providers find it difficult to discuss ways to control costs and improve care. Yet we must. What everyone agrees on—political parties and patients alike—is that healthcare is far too expensive and patient outcomes matter.
So why is healthcare reform so controversial? At its heart, the healthcare argument is a question about rights. On one hand, some believe healthcare is a universal human right that the government is obligated to meet. In fact, more than half of Americans support this idea. On the other hand, some believe healthcare is not a fundamental right; instead, it should be subject to the free market.
It’s easy to get caught up in this political binary and forget the overarching goal: ensuring better, more cost-efficient care and solving problems within the U.S. healthcare system as a whole. Regardless of personal beliefs, the system always has to work for patients, including on a financial level. Otherwise, it’s simply not sustainable.
The outcome perspective
In the current political discussion about healthcare, both sides seem to be missing critical pieces of a broader picture. On the left, there’s no incentive to provide exceptional care. On the right, there’s less benefit for a significant number of patients.
When having these critical conversations in healthcare, we should remove political variables from the equation and discuss outcomes-based healthcare—not whether healthcare is a fundamental right (and certainly not in terms of dollars).
Moving to an outcomes-based system would control costs for both providers and patients. In turn, it would move the industry forward and improve patient care and financial accountability. An outcomes-based healthcare system would also incentivize practitioners to hit the sweet spot of best possible care and lowered costs. Here, everyone wins.
Canada provides a strong example of how an outcomes-based model can bridge the divide between healthcare that’s universal and financially sustainable. There’s a perception of socialized medicine creating tremendous costs, bloated administrations, and inefficient care that leaves patients waiting months or more for appointments.