While the November election may have settled who will control the White House and Congress, many questions remain unsettled about how the nation will tackle its challenges related to health care, Group Health Cooperative's CEO told Tri-Citians on Friday.
Scott Armstrong said during a stop at the Tri-City Herald that even though the outcome of the election means the Affordable Care Act will continue to be implemented, how that will happen still is somewhat unclear.
"We really can't predict how this will unfold," he said.
What Armstrong could say is that he believes real change will come from communities rather than policymakers.
"The changes won't happen because of policy written in Washington, D.C.," he said. "It's actually innovations in local markets that are going to be the solution."
An important step the U.S. health care industry needs to take is to find a way to compensate doctors for improving health rather than paying per office visit or procedure.
In some cities, people who have Group Health insurance also see doctors employed by Group Health to save costs. They can go to outside doctors, but have incentives to see doctors within the company's network, Armstrong said.
And Group Health pays its doctors salaries instead of paying them each time they see a patient.
That frees up doctors to do things like engage in email exchanges with patients or follow up to make sure patients are filling their prescriptions -- activities doctors getting reimbursed by health insurance can't afford because they don't get paid for it, Armstrong said.
"Our philosophy is let's build relationships with patients to keep them healthy," he said.
Group Health has about 60,000 people on its health insurance plans in the Tri-Cities and Yakima, but doesn't offer its network of doctors and hospitals here.
Armstrong said that could change in the future.
"We are looking at markets around the state and asking if it's time," he said.