Mitigate Partners recently hosted their annual Employer Day, with the theme of “Demystifying Healthcare Costs – Controlling Costs is not a Spectator Sport! How to Crawl, Walk, Run, and Fly.” The event took place on June 7th at The Gasparilla Inn Beach Club in Boca Grande, Florida, and focused on issues like price transparency, keeping doctors independent and empowering everyday individuals to be their own advocates. The event boasted a lineup of speakers from every corner of healthcare—or at least those concerned with reducing costs for employers and patients. Mitigate Partners negotiates lower healthcare costs on behalf of employers, so they can offer their employees better coverage at a reasonable price. The conference showcased the team’s successes and discussed what still needs to be done to keep everyday people from going bankrupt because they fall ill.
Grit Daily caught up with some of the event’s speakers to hear about the points they touched upon, and why they found value in participating in the event.
Cynthia Fisher, founder of the advocacy organization that runs PatientRightsAdvocate.org, spoke about the issue of price transparency in healthcare. Fisher founded the website after working in the medical field and seeing people file for bankruptcy because of medical conditions. Just before starting the site, Fisher thought, “I’m at a time in my life where I can go to Washington and hire the right law firms to look where all the patients and people have a voice to be able to see prices before we get help there, so we can prevent all of these people I know from being devastated financially by overcharges and bills they never expected to pay.” Fisher believes the country is at a precipice, where hospitals and insurance companies will be forced to disclose data to the American consumer. She believes, “It’ll be much like what happened in the airline industry. In 1978, President Carter deregulated the airline industry. By making prices become transparent to the public, rather than just being with the travel agents, it totally shifted the power into the hands of the consumer.” Now, because consumers can easily compare prices, airfare is priced more competitively.
Marni Jameson Carey, Executive Director of the Association of Independent Doctors, spoke about independent doctors’ roles in keeping healthcare costs down. She says, “There’s a big move in this country for hospitals and private equity groups to buy up doctors and turn them into employees, which are really commodities.” These doctors then work on quotas, which give the hospitals more bargaining power with insurance companies because of their sheer scale. Carey’s organization fights to keep doctors independent so that they have more freedom and can offer patients more reasonable costs by omitting things like facility fees.
Another prominent speaker was an investigative journalist for ProPublica, Marshall Allen, whose book Never Pay the First Bill, hit shelves this week. At Employer Day, Allen discussed how patients can empower themselves to become savvy healthcare consumers. He describes his book as, “practical, actionable things that each of us can do to protect ourselves and to make sure that we aren’t paying more than we should,” for healthcare. While Allen was writing the book, he saw first-hand how institutions try to rip off consumers when his own mother was the victim of price gouging. Allen believes that it is up consumers to become knowledgeable about the healthcare system, and to stand up to hospitals and insurance companies trying to push unnecessary tests and medications upon them.
Over the years, Mitigate Partners has saved employer groups millions of dollars. One of their clients is The Gasparilla Inn & Club, where the event was held. The business has been able to pass savings onto its employees by using common sense cost cutting measures, like requiring that employees check with a cost and quality partner about which doctors have better outcomes for various medical procedures before undergoing the procedure. Glenn Price, CFO of The Gasparilla Inn, says that the company’s experience with Mitigate has allowed them to offer more robust coverage to their employees and even to eliminate deductibles.
In all, Employer Day was a success. Participants could have come out of it feeling disheartened about the current state of healthcare in America or optimistic about its future. There were some devastating stories about consumers who had to file for bankruptcy after treating their medical conditions, but the event showed that there are ways to keep costs down and still get quality care.
Institutional changes to America’s healthcare system seem far off, but Employer Day displayed how smaller entities can stand up on behalf of their employees to demand reasonable prices. Marshall Allen summed it up when he said, “No one is coming to our rescue. No one is going to really solve this for us.” For now, it looks like it is up to the everyday consumer and employers to challenge the status quo of America’s healthcare system at every turn.