An Independence Perspective

 
By Patty Starr, President & CEO, Health Action Council 
 
With the Fourth of July falling on a Thursday last week, the Health Action Council staff enjoyed a well-deserved four-day weekend. I hope that many, if not all of you, also had a little extra time away from the office, extra time with your family and friends, extra time to get out, recharge your batteries, and enjoy the summer holiday.
 
Of course, the Fourth of July is Independence Day, the celebration of the anniversary of the publication of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Within this unprecedented document is the assertion that each of us as Americans have certain inalienable rights, “that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
 
It further asserts that when government fails the governed, it is the people’s right to abolish it and to create a new government, “that shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.”
 
Think about some of the words: Independence. Safety. Happiness. Life. Liberty. Are these not the exact things that we strive for when it comes to the health of our employees? Happy and safe employees are good for business. They are more productive, more creative, make better decisions, and provide better customer service. They lead healthier lives and are often more independent and flexible when faced with workplace challenges.
 
But healthcare challenges are of a much different variety. Our employee populations are afforded the freedom to autonomously govern their individual health but with that freedom comes responsibility.
 
For even the best of our employees, this responsibility is incredibly challenging to handle. That is because even one wrong choice in the complicated system could have a negative impact on their health. Often times, without them even knowing it. One wrong turn could limit access to sites of care, providers, second opinions, treatments, pharmaceuticals, and many other services and products. One false move could lead to the belief that the more expensive a thing is, the better it is; that the more a thing is provided, the better it will be. 
 
Of course, these perspectives are not based in truth, but we must stay aware of them. Our employees are not healthy and happy every single day. Not all injury and illness can be prevented. When our employees do get sick or injured, it is important that they be free from outside referral biases and quotas when it comes to their care decisions. 
 
Healthcare should be viewed from a holistic, personalized perspective--that is true independence! And what we are constantly fighting for—freedom from high prices, high out-of-pocket spend, and inequality in outcomes.
 
We want our employees to be free to access the health services they need without having to wait until they can afford it or going bankrupt when they do; free to choose from measured, cost-effective, high-quality care; free to navigate a clearly labeled hierarchal and transparent healthcare ecosystem on their own and be provided with the tools to do so. We want freedom from up-coding, surprise billing, freedom from fee-for-service, and the freedom to question treatment plans, costs in advance, and outcomes.
 
We want a health system where safety is guaranteed, waste is minimized, and happiness for all of our employees is possible just as our founding fathers hoped to do for the citizens with the advent of these United States.       
 
I want to stress, we are by our very nature, apolitical. With very few exceptions, Health Action Council monitors and reports on, but does not work to affect policy. Instead, our focus is on advancing causes that directly benefit our members. Our vision guides and informs these efforts: healthy, vibrant communities where business thrives.
 
Despite this position, our vision for the future, our commitment to health, our very coalition, is squarely rooted in American ideals, especially those contained within the Declaration of Independence. It is from this perspective that we can, we must support health and remake the healthcare system to give our employees more education, more independence, and more safety.
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