According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), U.S healthcare spending is about 18 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP)—roughly $3.5 trillion. Surely, a system that comprises such a great deal of American GDP is deserving of its own special force, no? The military, after all, seems destined for a new squadron despite constituting only 3.1 percent of U.S. GDP (one-sixth of healthcare spending).
Before declaring me clinically insane, hear me out—It wouldn’t be out of character for President Trump and/or Congress to create a “health force” similar to its much-touted space corps. Here’s why:
Changes to Obamacare are finally occurring. In July, the U.S. House of Representatives repealed the mandatory 2.3 percent medical device tax in a bipartisan vote (226 Republicans and 57 Democrats supported the legislation). Although the U.S. Senate has not yet voted to officially kill the tax, I think it is very likely to do so. Knowing the way in which Washington politics works, I fully expect the Senate to vote on the device tax repeal bill just before mid-terms—specifically, during open enrollment for various health insurance plans, when premiums are expected to rise roughly 15 percent. The repeal vote, not surprisingly, will more than likely coincide with this insurance premium hike to counteract consumer price sticker shock and help lawmakers win their respective (re-)election bids.
Regardless of party majority after mid-terms, the Trump Administration could become more tenacious about reconfiguring the country’s healthcare system to prevent states from offering their own alternatives. These substitute plans are slowly replacing the individual mandate, which required all Americans to carry health insurance; although states lose some funding by offering their own plans, they are free from federal control. Such a loss will likely force Congress to offer a solution, since lawmakers will want to retain the upper hand.
Next year, a new Congress will convene and President Trump will begin working on his re-election campaign. One of the possible campaign topics will be true healthcare reform, promising constituents (and echoing the Carpenters) that he’s “only just begun.” He will offer proof that he ended the individual mandate—which has saved many Americans money—and eliminated the medical device tax, saving the medtech industry roughly $1.8 billion in annual tax increases that ultimately would have been passed on to consumers. He will declare, “I can’t stop the annual runaway train of 15 percent annual premium increases unless we reconfigure Obamacare! We’re going to replace it with something good, believe me. Obamacare has been a total and complete disaster. We must act, and we must act now.”
I believe the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress only dabbled with healthcare reform in the President’s first term because Americans weren’t disillusioned enough with Obamacare to welcome an alternative solution. Another 15 percent premium increase and a strong economy, however, seemed to do the trick. A good leader knows—as Kenny Rogers did in “The Gambler”—“when to hold ‘em, and when to fold ‘em.” The United States is well on its way to historically low unemployment and consumer confidence is so high that the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to slow things down. The political good will to do more is growing rapidly. And the timing couldn’t be any better with the 2020 presidential race gearing up.
So, at the 2019 State of the Union Address in January, imagine President Trump telling the new Congress, “I plan to work with you in a bipartisan fashion, like we did to repeal the medical device tax and implement historical tax reforms, to once and for all create a new division of the Health and Human Services Agency called the United States Health Force or USHF. We will bring together healthcare thought leaders, under the direction of supply chain thought leaders, from across the entire care chain continuum to create the USHF. This agency will formulate a plan to maximize the vast resources we have in the United States—world-class institutions like the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, and our veterans hospitals, just to name a few. We will also leverage medical device companies such as Medtronic, Boston Scientific, J&J, Zoll, Stryker, and many others to provide high-quality products to our citizens. We will finally address long-needed changes within the pharmaceutical industry. Working with our nation’s insurance companies, we will address needed reimbursement reforms to restore fairness within the care chain. We will incent our vast equity resources within the United States to help Make American Healthcare Great Again; we’ll use research and development incentives to create next-generation therapies and products. We will favor products and services made in the United States and our goal will be to help all Americans dealing with ailments to restore themselves to full health. Also, we’ll increase our focus on wellness to prevent ailments from happening in the first place. And lastly, we’ll restore the pride of being a healthcare doctor or practitioner, which will enable our medical schools to flourish like they did years ago. If we’re going to spend 18 percent of our GDP, or $3.5 trillion on healthcare, we need to manage it well. Therefore, I am asking Congress tonight to establish the United States Health Force within the Health and Human Services Agency. If Congress doesn’t act—doesn’t want to work with me in a bipartisan manner on this—then I’ll do it myself by executive order. Believe me!”
Is such a speech really that far-fetched? Not at all—remember, if a U.S. Space Force is a distinct possibility, so is a Health Force.
Most Americans thought President Trump was crazy for calling North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un “rocket man.” Were you one of them? Yet nine months after issuing the nickname, Kim Jong-un and Trump were shaking hands at a historic summit and talking about playing golf at the President’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Only time will tell whether that summit produces long-lasting results, but the shock factor approach has pushed the two countries in a promising direction for the first time in 50 years. I think most Americans would agree that the U.S. healthcare system needs some shock factor leadership right now. There’s a good chance that could happen.
I’d like to conclude with some simple advice: Let’s all keep our antennas up (like those in the old Flash Gordon Martian movies) and stay abreast of what is taking place in Washington in the next few years. Supply chain thought leaders interested in becoming part of the USHF should be prepared to be vetted like Brett Kavanaugh is being vetted for the U.S. Supreme Court. With healthcare encompassing 18 percent of our country’s GDP, there’s no better time than the present to control runaway medical costs. Tomorrow might be too late.
Chris Oleksy is founder and CEO of Oleksy Enterprises, Next Life Medical and Emergent Respiratory. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.