{a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AObama_healthcare_speech_draft.jpg"}Official White House Photo by Pete Souza via Wikipedia Commons{/a}

One of the hidden benefits of being a healthcare recruiter is that you get to see, firsthand, the rich irony that plagues our industry.  Healthcare is one of the most technologically impressive businesses in the nation—where modern miracles happen every day—yet the vast majority of its leaders are loath to get out in front of one of the most important issues in our nation’s history.  Healthcare reform.

Instead of being the champions for designing and selling a new healthcare model that will be safer for patients and significantly less costly, our industry leaders have opted for the role of adept adapters.  That is essentially what we have been doing for years.  We are more comfortable telling lawmakers and the public at large what won’t work and then figuring out how to survive in a business environment that, as the result of the Baby Boom actuarial anomaly, is becoming more federalized due to the growth in Medicare.

Let’s be honest, does anyone in healthcare really believe that Congress will solve this problem?  We are heading for a year-end fiscal crisis, and yet, the vast majority of the Capitol’s elected inhabitants are more interested in the election outcomes than solving this problem.  The House, for example, currently has only 44 days scheduled between now and the end of the session to address critical issues that will dramatically impact our nation—expiration of the Bush tax cuts, numerous spending bills, a national debt that is growing at an alarming rate and, to top it off, the need to increase the nation’s debt limit to avoid a bond market revolt and another downgrade.

I ask the question again:  does anyone in healthcare believe that Congress and a president who are locked in a gridlock death grip, will lead the redesign of the business model?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act only addresses part of the problem.  It is essentially payment reform.  Little in the bill will lead to lower costs because there is little in the legislation that changes, in a meaningful way, the financial incentives that are driving up the costs.

As industry leaders we must do more to reshape the debate.  We must focus on ideas that will make things better.  We must be a voice and a force for change, taking the lead to create a new business design that will appropriately reward us for the services we provide.

True, healthcare leaders are not a monolithic bloc that will suddenly rally to a set of ideas.  Developing and selling new ideas will take hard work and principled compromise, but who would you rather create these principles and market forces that will lead to real change:  the Capitol ideologues, or the men and women of healthcare who care deeply about what happens to this important industry?

We must move from our traditional safe mode—standing on the sidelines telling people what won’t work—and begin speaking out on what will.

© 2012 John Gregory Self