Skyrocketing cost of healthcare is creating ‘a new kind of pandemic,’ says Health VC

After experiencing the first pandemic in more than a century, Americans could be in the middle of another. “We are facing a new kind of pandemic… the affordability crisis is a pandemic.” Lee Shapiro, managing partner of healthcare venture fund 7wireVenture, said Tuesday in Fortunefrom the Brainstorm Health conference on Tuesday in Dana Point, California.

More than half of working-age adults can’t afford health care, he said, and “when you can’t pay for health care, you’re not filling your prescriptions, you’re delaying the delivery of care, you’re not making money.” dating… it’s a huge problem.”

The affordability crisis comes down to two things, according to Larry Levitt, executive vice president of health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation: the cost, which in the United States is double what it is in other high-income countries, and the structure of private insurance, and therefore, high deductibles.

Even with recent moves to expand access to insurance, millions of Americans are underinsured, said Meghan Fitzgerald, founder of Gray Ghost Capital and associate professor of health policy and management at Columbia University. “Cancer care can be ruined,” she said. “You can imagine what a double whammy that is: getting a diagnosis and then finding out you’re going to get a $5,000 bill, and those are people who have insurance.” The country spends about 20% of GDP on health care, Fitzgerald later noted.

You can imagine, in addition to affordability, its complexity, making it difficult for people to navigate its benefits and understand what their out-of-pocket cost will be, Levitt said. Employers “are also part of the problem,” although they are the ones footing most of the bill, he said. Employers are not using economic or political influence to try to reduce health costs, Levitt charged, adding that holding employers accountable could actually help alleviate the affordability crisis. Finally, transparency between employers and insurers can also help, Shapiro said.

And how Fortune Lead writer Maria Aspan, moderating the discussion, noted that the United States is in an election year, so she asked what the panelists expected regardless of the outcome. “Bipartisan consensus on issues where possible,” Levitt said, almost without hesitation. “I hope we can find some ways to make some progress on affordability issues,” she said. Shapiro, on the other hand, said he hopes the Affordable Care Act — an Obama-era reform that polarized Americans for a decade — is recognized for how many people depend on it for health care, given the huge problem which has become.

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