Healthcare is too expensive, the healthcare industry needs to change to make it more affordable, and no stakeholder can do all of this alone. That’s the message Intermountain CEO Marc Harrison, MD—who’s back to working in the office following his cancer treatment—delivered to healthcare leaders and industry analysts at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco earlier this month.

“We have an absolute responsibility to make healthcare as affordable as possible,” Dr. Harrison said. “We must set aside our differences and come together to solve the challenges of our time.”

Bert Zimmerli, executive vice president and chief financial officer, added, “You hear all the time that healthcare is becoming unaffordable. I don’t agree with that. Healthcare already is unaffordable.”

Zimmerli cited a recent study by Moody’s that revealed U.S. households’ healthcare costs have risen twice as fast as income over the last 15 years. And he said another national study released last spring found:

  • One in four people have skipped a medical treatment because of costs
  • 45 percent fear bankruptcy if they experience a major health event
  • 76 percent think they pay too much for the care they receive

Utah continues to have the lowest healthcare costs per person in the nation—26 percent below the national average—in large part because of Intermountain’s ongoing efforts to provide high-quality, evidence-based care at costs well below the national average. But Dr. Harrison and Zimmerli both said much more work is needed, and caregivers’ focus on driving down costs over the past few years has helped Intermountain make headway.

Dr. Harrison and Zimmerli shared examples of how Intermountain is reducing costs for patients:

  • Intermountain led the creation of Civica Rx, the nonprofit prescription drug company that’s already offering low-cost medications to partnering facilities across the country. This unique solution addresses two major problems facing all providers: drug shortages and drug prices.
  • Intermountain is collaborating with other healthcare, public health, and community-based partners, as well as not-for-profit organizations like food banks, homeless shelters, and community advocacy groups, to address non-medical factors that affect a person’s health. These social determinants of health include things like housing instability, utility needs, chronic hunger, and lack of transportation.
  • Intermountain launched the HerediGene Population Study that will analyze the genetic blueprints of 500,000 people to focus on discovering new connections between genetics and human disease, which could save lives.
  • Intermountain lowered the cost for patients of “shopped” procedures, such as deliveries and many surgery and imaging procedures.
  • SelectHealth reduced pricing on individual exchange products in 2019 and is keeping annual insurance premium increases for our Share product at just 2 to 2.5 percent for the next three years.
  • Intermountain’s focus on wellness and preventive care through initiatives like SelectHealth Share and Reimagined Primary Care are helping patients stay healthy and avoid hospital admissions and other expensive types of care.
  • Virtual care services, including Intermountain Connect Care, are helping make care more accessible, convenient, and affordable.

Dr. Harrison said there is more work to do and invited healthcare leaders at the conference to rise above the conflict culture and work together to make real progress for those we serve in all our communities.