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Friday, November 25, 2011

Will Healthcare ever grow up?

My daughters are both growing up.  Yesterday morning, my eldest attended a high school football game as a guest member of the marching band.  They asked the Middle school flag teams to march with the band for Thanksgiving day. As she grows up, she is learning more and more about how to care for herself (and others).  Afterwards, she was cooking a dish for the thanksgiving meal we are about to share with friends.

She knows that she needs to see a doctor regularly, she knows how to ask for her records, and how to read them to some degree.  Here time horizon is also expanding.  We played Monopoly last night, and as she kept running short on funds, she kept thinking about the kinds of financial decisions she'd be making on her own in college ... hmm, pizza now, or groceries for the week?  In short, she's beginning to learn what she needs to support herself as an adult.

Over the last hundred years, healthcare has advanced from something that only the rich could really afford, to something that was considered to be an essential component of every person's basic needs.  Over that same time, the costs of healthcare have grown, seemingly without bound, and it is now regressing back to something that only the rich and/or well-employed (and healthy) can really afford.

I find myself wondering what kind of healthcare system my daughters will have to teach their children about.  Will it be something that they, as digital natives, find familiar and reassuring and part of their usual lives, or will it be even more frustrating, expensive and cumbersome than it is today?  I'm hoping for the former, but it is so hard to predict where we will be in twenty years.

Our political leaders often cannot seem to think beyond the next election, our financial sector cannot even seem to think beyond the next quarter or maybe as far as the next year, and our healthcare system within the 18-month average horizon that an insurer needs to care about a patient, or the deadline for the next regulatory hurdle affecting payment?

These are the time frames in which children think, next month, next Christmas, next birthday, next school year, when I get to the next school, et cetera.  As a parent, I had to start thinking about college for my kids when they were born.  That is the kind of time frame that adults have to think in.  What will healthcare leaders be thinking like when my daughter is an adult?  Like her, or like her children?

I'll keep pushing because our healthcare system needs adults right now to keep pushing.  And if we keep it up, eventually it might just grow up, just like children do.  I'm optimistic, but still not certain.