In an industry as big and bloated as healthcare, cutting costs is necessary, but insufficient on its own to combat waste. As cost-cutting generates windfalls, industry stakeholders also need to find a fair way to divvy up the cost-savings spoils.
Many observers have compared the reform-roiled healthcare industry to the Wild Wild West. The temptation to draw open-frontier analogies is irresistible, and I have galloped down that dusty trail for a story about the Pioneer ACO program.
With opportunity aplenty, fairness is a topic that has not arisen often; until last week, when I set out to explore healthcare's electronic payment frontier.
The feds launched an e-payment Gold Rush this year: requiring insurers to start offering e-payment to providers, which offers a number of benefits because paper checks come with administrative and mailing costs, which add up to billions of dollars of expenses for payers.
A 2012 Institute of Medicine report estimates that waste linked to paperwork and administration costs the healthcare industry about $190 billion annually. A 2010 study conducted by several industry stakeholders pegs the potential yearly cost savings from e-payment at $11 billion.