Debate over whether government funding or private insurance constitutes the ideal financing model is reaching a resolution. The answer: both.
America's employer-based healthcare system historically differs from the system in other industrialized nations where government pays the tab. But the two systems appear to be converging, according to a new study.
In the U.S., the market share for private insurance is slipping, to a projected 32.4% in 2000 from 34.1% in 1990, because of rising costs, workplace changes and an aging population.
Meanwhile, private insurance is growing in countries such as Australia, Canada and Spain as governments add copayments, limit services and require wealthy citizens to pay their own way. On average, private insurance pays about 10% of healthcare costs in European countries and is growing at a rate of 5% to 7% a year.
According to the report HealthCast 2010: Smaller World, Bigger Expectations, published last month by PricewaterhouseCoopers, these trends mean that most of the industrialized world will have both a strong government health program and a private, market-based one.
The upshot for doctors and hospitals isn't all good, though. "As providers in the United States can attest, this can make them slightly schizophrenic, catering to the demands and payment systems of different constituencies," according to the report.
Close, but no cigar. A U.S. healthcare trade mission to Cuba was canceled recently after two postponements.
A trip organized by market research firm Richard K. Miller & Associates, Norcross, Ga., was originally scheduled for March. Firm President Richard Miller says Cuban officials wouldn't commit to a date despite initially saying they wanted to meet. "It just seemed they didn't have any interest in having us down," he says.
But governor goes all the way. Illinois Gov. George Ryan had better luck shepherding a 45-member delegation, including seven healthcare representatives from his home state, to Cuba in October.
The delegation delivered $1 million in humanitarian supplies and facilitated the transfer of a Cuban boy with a rare medical condition to the U.S. for a second opinion. They also sowed seeds for a joint healthcare conference in the U.S., which has yet to be scheduled.
Delegates were pleasantly surprised by how much Cuba's healthcare system has accomplished with limited resources, says Carl Getto, M.D., dean of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. They were astounded to learn, for example, that Cuba has a vaccine for the tropical disease leptospirosis, which contaminated a Springfield lake last year.
Dismaying, however, were Cuba's insufficient food supply and undersupply of drugs and medical equipment, problems that might be alleviated by limited trade with the U.S. "You have to question why we would continue this (embargo) policy past the 40 years that it's already been in effect," Getto says.
Trade junket II. Croissants, tapas and business opportunities will be on the menu for a group of Nashville's healthcare elite when they take a weeklong trade mission to France and Spain next March.
About 30 senior executives from the Nashville area are expected to head overseas to mine business opportunities, buoyed by the success of a similar mission last year to Germany and the United Kingdom. The second mission is to be headed by Jack Bovender, president and chief operating officer of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.
The trip will include visits with industry leaders from European companies and American companies with European divisions, government diplomats and policymakers, say organizers at the Nashville Health Care Council. Likely participants include representatives from healthcare service firms; insurers; information technology, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies; medical devicemakers; and venture capitalists.
Vatican update. Plans are moving forward to rejuvenate an international federation of Catholic healthcare leaders. About 65 representatives from around the globe, including Australia, Canada, India, Taiwan and the U.S., attended a meeting in July at the Vatican.
Among them was the Rev. Michael Place, president and chief executive officer of the St. Louis-based Catholic Health Association, who said the Vatican plans to form a steering committee and hold a follow-up meeting next summer.
Big move. When Sidney Mitchell, former chief executive officer of the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, decided to take a new job, he went all out-out of the country, that is. Mitchell, 54, is heading to Irbid, Jordan, to take the helm at a new 685-bed hospital scheduled to open next summer. Mitchell was displaced in July when the university hospital hired a turnaround firm.
The new facility, called King Abdullah University Hospital, is affiliated with the Jordan University of Science and Technology. Enormous in comparison with most U.S. facilities, the new hospital aims to attract patients from all around the Middle East.
Mitchell, who has lectured in Jordan, said he was recruited for the job long before the shake-up at UIC. "Certainly, what happened at UIC helped push me in that direction," he says.