The past several weeks have been abuzz with the mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare arena. CVS has purchased Aetna for a cool 69 billion dollars and went through the regulatory process with flying colors. Amazon (on their quest for world domination) has teamed up with Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and financial powerhouse JP Morgan to use their resources, influence and power to, according to Buffett, “tackle healthcare costs in our nation.” Buffet also said that because the US, at 18% of our gross domestic product, the US is at a competitive disadvantage, at 3.3 trillion dollars annually. He believes the private sector can handle healthcare better than the government.
Albertson's, a grocery company, is ready to acquire retail pharmacy giant Rite Aid. And now, Cigna, the insurance behemoth, is buying Express Scripts in a deal for upwards of 50 billion. Software giant Apple is dipping their toe into employee health, while things are starting to rumble at Wal-Mart, the retail monster.
After all of that information, you need a breath. But will a disruption by these companies be the thing that makes healthcare better in the US?
Yet, as a patient advocate and caregiver supporter, my main concern is this: Will all of this be a win for patients, caregivers and families? You know – the healthcare customers?
While the shake-up in healthcare is oh-so-long overdue, is the combination of behemoths the right way?
First, this healthcare shake-up will not be the last of the behemoths to combine. I would be willing to bet on that. We have yet to hear from the likes of Microsoft, Walgreens, Google or any of the Generals (Electric, Motors, Mills). What about other insurers? Where is Humana or United Healthcare in this game?
Many companies will follow suit. It's just a matter of time. I liken it to the most popular girl in high school getting into a relationship with the most popular boy and becoming a force to be reckoned with. Everyone will see the trend, its benefits and potential, and jump into it. Sorry for the high school analogy.
The point is everyone sees that it is time for change in healthcare.
So what's in it for patients / customers?
Something we must question is this: Are these corporations in it for the billions of dollars that healthcare is worth or do they really want better conditions, cost and efficiency for patients? Will the combination of all these behemoths reach past their employees and meet the needs of all patients in our nation? What are their motives?
My mission is to empower patients and caregivers to navigate healthcare confidently and correctly, to save them and all parties involved time, money and frustration. I show them that they have rights and responsibilities in their Healthcare journey and must take a strong and active role in their care. Patients are the lifeblood of the healthcare system.
None of these behemoth combinations will be successful without patient / customer buy-in. They'd better put all of their goals into a nice and helpful package for patients so they feel supported and empowered. If these corporations can show how the patient will be helped and how their alliances can save money for all parties involved, they should have no trouble in the regulatory processes that face.
But I implore all of you behemoths … DO SOMETHING.
Do something for the 64% of Americans who avoid getting care because they are afraid of the costs.
Do something for the working poor who make too much for Medicaid and not enough to afford skyrocketing healthcare premiums.
Do something that shows how healthcare can actually be affordable and where service prices do not have to be excessive.
Do something to empower patients and establish real healthcare cost transparency.
Do something about actual care and system processes to show that it does not have to be as difficult or time-consuming as it is currently.
You behemoths have the power to change healthcare for the better for the foreseeable future and possibly, forever. Please do not look down from your Ivory Towers upon us mere mortals and pity us or hope for the best. Do something.
Make it a win for patients, and we all will win.