These names are, in many ways, synonymous with the current free market movement, and for good reason. These men are the mavericks of healthcare. When Dr. Smith and Mr. Kempton were introduced in 2011 by a mutual friend and client, they had no way of knowing that their partnership would become what it is today and create an entire movement in the healthcare space.
Jay Kempton: When you understand how this business really works, you can see the effect of the dysfunction which I just described; but when you learn more about the cause, you can see that the patients’ actual financial concern is not even on the radar of so many entities that are part of big healthcare. Hospitals really do not understand that the gouging of pricing that they do trickles down into basically wage stagnation to employees. They say, “We’re raising our prices, but it only hurts the big insurance companies.” No, that’s never the way it works. It eventually makes it way as an increased cost to the employer. They can’t afford to just absorb the increase, so how do they offset that? By lowering or decreasing the increase of wages or they reduce the benefits, or both.
What is the greatest obstacle that this movement and the FMMA faces?
Dr. Keith Smith: The answer may be counterintuitive. I think the greatest obstacle the FMMA and this movement faces is ourselves. We are so programmed and conditioned to look to outside leaders or to the government for solutions and answers. They are ultimately responsible for all the problems that have led to our current system. The answer is looking to ourselves and having the courage to face the possibility that, in innumerable ways, we have been duped. Admitting that is a very personal and difficult experience for many people—to look in the mirror and acknowledge that they’ve been lied to. Even worse, we have believed these lies and have acted accordingly. People must acknowledge that it is a ground up movement, not one where solutions rain down on us from our rulers or our leaders. They must do their own thinking and not allow those who would like to be protected from innovation to stop us.
Jay Kempton: The obstacle that’s not so benign is how people in the healthcare business get paid. Brokers, consultants, and agents have tremendous influence over employers and patients, and the way that they see healthcare. Many people in the employee benefits business get paid when they make money off the problem. In other words, they’re making a percentage of the healthcare spend. The problem gets bigger, their income goes up.
If you could tell someone just one thing about the free market in healthcare what would it be?
Dr. Keith Smith: The one thing I would tell them is that the free market is not about sellers having their way with consumers. The free market is not about brutalizing the poor, or people who are trying to pay for their own care.
The free market is about an exchange between buyers and sellers that is mutually beneficial, where both parties emerge feeling like it was a good exchange. Any time that the media quotes some corporate healthcare exec or politician bemoaning the tough future that one of the sellers might face given some policy that might be enacted should be discounted or ignored. The focus has to be on the consumer, and on whether a consumer’s decision to buy A or B is a value to that person. The one message that I would give is to know that this movement is about servicing consumers. Period. Any concerns or desires that sellers have to be protected from the preferences of consumers must be seen as the source of the problem that we all face in health care today.
Jay Kempton: The free market and healthcare is the only true healthcare reform that has a chance of being sustainable. Anything else is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.