Kelly Evans: Who Can Fix the Healthcare System?

CNBC

So, I'm being induced with baby number three on Saturday (all good). It's a weird feeling to know the birth date ahead of time. Feels like I'm checking into a hotel or something. "Call the hospital at 4 p.m. on Friday, and they'll let you know when to come in...."  

Anyhow, I've heard that acupuncture can help your body get ready, so I figured this would be a good time to give it a whirl. I have to say, who wouldn't love basically getting to take a nap on a warm bed under a blanket for half an hour? I sure did. No wonder it's so popular with pregnant ladies.  

But I almost called the whole thing off when I got the dreaded email: "Complete your medical forms before your scheduled appointment!" Oh please no, I thought. Maybe it'll be quick. It's just acupuncture. Oh, but of course not. If I had dutifully filled out every bit of the dozen-plus page forms, it would have easily taken twenty minutes. Twenty minutes to relay my entire medical and family history, for the umpteenth time, to yet another care provider. 

 Because it was a last-minute appointment, and I don't have a ton of free time right now, and my soul protested this stupidity, I simply skipped as much of it as I could, which has been my new strategy with these endless forms. "Have you ever experienced the following...?" My old strategy was just to hit "No-No-No-No-No" as quickly as possible and hope I didn't accidentally answer "No" to something like "Have you stopped binge drinking and using recreational drugs?" My new strategy is just to leave everything blank so long as the "Next" button still works.  

Needless to say, the doctor (practitioner?) was not impressed with this approach. Fortunately, she still took me in for the session so long as I promised to fill out the paperwork for next time, and we talked over the most important stuff. And at least this office gave me the option of doing it myself at home. I'm so sick of every medical appointment I show up to now consisting of me answering rote questions to someone who's not even looking at me while they type everything I utter into their computers. It's repetitive. Annoying. And demeaning!  

And of course, paying for these visits is a whole other headache. The chiropractor I visited the other day was so fed up dealing with insurance companies that she was about to stop taking insurance altogether. A lot of medical providers have gone in that direction, and who can blame them? I can't even keep straight what kind of insurance coverage we have (since it changes relatively often), and what that means for "in" versus "out" of network visits, and how the copays and deductibles all work, and which receipts the flex account needs and which not, etc. And by the way, what exactly is "coinsurance" on top of all that? 

At least the chiropractor and acupuncturist are discretionary and avoidable. What if these were cancer screenings or surgical needs? Just to get reimbursed (to some extent) for the speech therapist my oldest now has to see, we have to fill out and mail receipts and forms from each visit to some office in Minnesota and wait to hear back. It's bizarre. "They make it hard on purpose so you won't send it in," the therapist said. Sure seems that way to me. 

Which is why, when Berkshire, Amazon, and J.P. Morgan launched "Haven" to much fanfare a couple of years ago, we were all a little skeptical that their efforts to "transform health care" would bear much fruit. Still, it was demoralizing to see them disband yesterday. These are three of the most powerful companies in the world.  

Apparently the hurdles were mostly logistical; the companies have different needs, work in different locations, "and executed their own projects separately with their own employees, obviating the need for the joint venture to begin with," our Hugh Son reported yesterday in breaking the story. But it still feels like a letdown. It tells me: nothing super transformative is happening with our collaboration here. But hey, we made our internal portals easier to use!  

Maybe that's unfair, and these companies will actually end up finding ways to "make primary care easier to access, insurance benefits simpler to understand and easier to use, and prescription drugs more affordable." But I'm not holding my breath. The challenge is simply too large. The healthcare system is too much of a mess. 

Still, I'm not sure I can agree with the viewer who tweeted me in response to that story that "Healthcare can only be administered by the government" in order to work properly. Most of the forms I have to deal with over and over again seem to relate to some federal or state-required mandates. All I know about "HIPAA" is that it's something else I have to sign while balancing my son on my lap. Health insurance is already one of the most heavily regulated industries in the U.S.  And when I lived in the U.K., a lot of people were simply paying private providers for services instead of or in addition to using the national health system, which was plagued with exclusions and backlogs. It didn't seem like some magic bullet. 

All of which is to say, you look at the aborted "Haven" mission this week and you can't help but think it'll probably be easier for Jeff Bezos to colonize Mars than to fix the U.S. healthcare system.  

See you at 1 p.m! 

Kelly

Twitter: @KellyCNBC

Instagram: @realkellyevans

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