Written by: Lynne Jeter
With the advent of Obamacare, the United States is slipping into a distinct two-tiered healthcare system, notes industry leader Keith Kantor, PhD.
“The top 5 to 10 percent of wage earners are moving toward concierge care; everyone else will have to deal with rationed healthcare,” said Kantor, CEO of Atlanta-based Service Foods Inc., established in 1981 and rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau, and the author of What Matters: Leadership Values That Just Might Save America (Effective Press, 2012).
To fully understand what’s ahead without significant change, people must understand the United States has a very unhealthy healthcare system, said Kantor.
“We have a disease and accident management system,” he said. “It’s totally reactive, and creates quite a burden within an already broken system.”
This sad state became evident after Congress passed the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
“President Obama took $716 billion out of Medicare to try to support Obamacare, which is supposed to be revenue neutral,” said Kantor. “The last estimate was $2.7 trillion over 10 years. That’s a big difference! To be fair to President Obama, the system was broken before he took office. He simply exasperated the problems by trying to implement the Affordable Care Act, which quickened the demise of our healthcare system.”
With the reduction in Medicare payments, studies show that in 2014, approximately one-third of doctors in hospitals will cease taking Medicare patients, noted Kantor.
“We’re seeing that already,” he said. “Most of them already won’t take new Medicare patients.”
When the pool of doctors shrinks by one-third, the time it takes for patients to get an appointment will increase. “Right now, if you call your general practitioner, you can usually get in within a week, maybe a few weeks for a specialist,” he said.
When 30 million uninsured citizens are added to the Medicare funnel, the wait for an appointment will significantly expand. “Then it’ll take several weeks to get an appointment with a GP, and many months to see a specialist,” he said. “Right now, you still have to wait about an hour to see a doctor. With these changes, the waiting time in the doctor’s office will be even longer. That’s a form of rationing … a politically correct way of rationing by spreading out appointment times.”
With fees being cut so drastically, doctors must see more patients, Kantor pointed out.
“Right now, you get to see a physician for a few minutes,” he said. “That time will be cut down so he can see more patients in the same time to get the same money. So you’ll have lower quality care, shorter times to spend with medical professionals, and longer waits. That’s what’s in store for the bulk of the people in the healthcare system.”
Families of economic means will seek concierge doctors, who charge a fee. For example, a doctor may have a patient load maximum of 600 families, and charge each family $5,000, said Kantor.
“If you do the math, that’s roughly $3 million,” he said. “Then they take commercial insurance; each patient covers other expenses. So their patients can call up and get an appointment the same or next day. There’s no wait in the lobby. You could call up the doctor on the phone, email questions to him, or sit and talk for a half-hour or more, and get excellent care. The other 90 percent will be using this broken healthcare system with longer waits and lower quality care … that’s forming right now in the United States.”
Last January, Kantor chaired the Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel, which submitted a report to Congress: “Recommendations to Fix and Lower Costs in the U.S. Healthcare System.”
“Some common sense ideas made it to a bill that passed the House – even Democrats on the panel voted for it; it wasn’t controversial – but because the Senate won’t talk to the House, it didn’t go further,” he said. “That’s just politics and gridlock in the U.S. right now.”
Among the recommendations that could result in $253 billion of savings annually within five years, or $332.5 billion every year within a decade, accounting for roughly 15 percent of America’s total healthcare costs of $1.8 trillion:
- Making education changes and additions that call for teaching nutrition and bringing back gym classes in schools, and asking medical and dental schools to teach preventive medicine and nutrition classes.
- Using the Natural Product Association’s standard for all-natural products.
- Stopping subsidies for certain crops, such as sugar and portions of corn crops that are used for high-fructose corn syrup.
- Allowing Flexible Spending Accounts and Medical Savings Accounts for expenses such as FDA-approved supplements, gym memberships, registered dietician services, approved gym equipment, and water filtration devices.
- Pushing, promoting and encouraging the digitalization of all medical records.
- Improving the health insurance climate with more transparency, more consumer involvement, interstate competition, and the implementation and enforcement of real tort and malpractice reform.
“In August 2009, the CDC – the highest credentialed health agency in our government – said if you follow four simple rules, you could prevent, eliminate or at a minimum mitigate 80 percent of all major diseases in the U.S.,” noted Kantor. “And we don’t do it! Our healthcare system isn’t designed to follow that advice.”
In a nutshell, those rules for healthy living involve:
- Not smoking.
- Eating an all natural diet.
- Keeping BMI below 30.
- Exercising 3.5 hours a week.
Using those guidelines, last year, Kantor created Green Box Foods, a nutritional wellness benefit platform for large employers and health associations. Employees and association members receive individualized health assessments, along with access to menus and thousands of recipes with nutritional data, and hundreds of exercises with calorie-burning information. Users have access to registered dieticians, RNs, and fitness experts.
By the end of its first year of operation, Green Box Foods had 30 million users, a number Kantor thought would take a couple of decades to reach.
“This new wave of health and wellness type companies like ours that’s sweeping the nation will take the burden off our broken healthcare system,” said Kantor. “There’s no fee to employees, and it’s literally pennies a day to employers. If employees are on a certified health and wellness program, insurance companies provide a discount of 2 to 9 percent, which more than offsets the employer’s investment. When employees are healthier, they’re also more productive.”
By taking a grass roots approach to the free enterprise system, the healthcare crisis can be averted, Kantor said.
“We can’t depend on the government to fix things,” he said. “Whenever they try, they tend to not be inherently efficient, especially with politics impacting what gets passed.”
This article was published in Nashville Medical News.
Be sure and order your copy of Dr. Kantor’s highly praised new book What Matters: Leadership Values that Just Might Save America. Proceeds from sales benefit the American Diabetes Foundation, the All-Natural Food Council of North America, the Natural Products Association.