George Halvorson hardly smiled even when he told jokes during his keynote speech to several thousand attendees at the 2009 Healthcare Information and Management System Society convention in Chicago and his several thousand listeners rarely laughed during what amounted to be a sobering, Dutch uncle lecture on the state of healthcare in America.
Halvorson, the chairman and CEO of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, revealed little new, but added another powerful voice from the healthcare industry to what has been an old chorus describing the ills of the industry.
Halvorsons bullet points were familiar; only the numbers were freshly updated for Mondays audience. One of the great tragedies of spending so much on our nonsystem of care is the nation is still leaving 50 million of its people uninsured and 20 million underinsured, Halvorson said.
For those who have insurance that does cover the cost of their care, providers are paid through a piecework, very primitive system in which providers charge for individual units of care and not the entire package, Halvorson said. We have 18,000 billing codes for procedures, and there is not one billing code for a cure, he said. Not one code for health.