Back in the day, I once had a boss that was fairly savvy, and a senior exec at a major insurer (all of you long-time followers can figure out who/where). The year was 1984 and the topic was healthcare reform. He said "There's too many vested interests, and too many people making money, for much to change substantively in the healthcare system".
26 years later I am much grayer, older, and (unfortunately) unhealthier. And most of my career has, in one way or another, held his maxim to be true.
I remembered that quote when Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts, and it looked like the end of yet another run at healthcare reform. I wasn't alone. Angela Braly, the CEO of Wellpoint, had an epic interview in the Wall Street Journal that said effectively the same thing. I agreed in some ways with Ms. Braly - a wasted opportunity, an ineffective bill at addressing root causes of healthcare spending growth, a chance that reform would make things worse and not better.
BUT THEN IT HAPPENED.
Putting aside all the politics, the arguments about BIG government, the tax and balance sheet impacts, and even the philosophical underpinnings of what this means to be "An American" (cowboy boots and all) - I do believe that this moment in time reflects a maturation of our country.
What was really intriguing to me about Braly's comments was not the analysis of the healthcare bill and it's good or bad points, but her view about the role of insurers. Insurers have gone through this cycle as healthcare financiers, healthcare deliverers (the 90s had much discussion about building delivery systems), and now seem to be settling into the role of information brokers.
This is huge, and a very important insight by Ms. Braly. It's something we have been talking about at Burton Group - the primacy of information management, under the nom-de-plumes of "Business Intelligence" or "Business Process Management". It's a business model that will have huge impacts on healthcare and healthcare IT. We'll see significant growth in the whole healthcare information system - from data capture, to storage, to analysis. Google and Microsoft see it, and it may be the only way left for healthcare insurers to compete.
Kudos to Angela Braly on recognizing it. Sympathies to her as well for such a poor forecast on the future of the healthcare bill. Stay away from the horse track.
This year, holy week and passover coincide. For Christians, its about death and re-birth. For Jews, the promise of redemption. The ramp-up to this week saw all this happen with healthcare reform. Goodbye, 1984.