Health Outside of the Health SystemBy Javier Picó | Fri, 03/05/2021 - 09:24
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the fact that, worldwide, health is the most precious commodity for society and individuals alike and that it needs to be re-valued as such.
In every country, we witnessed how, while the individual health systems faced a difficult battle to save the lives of infected individuals facing grave complications, society established unheard of protection measures to ensure the “health” of the population.
Individuals practicing selfcare; companies suspending, partially or totally, their operations; and governments imposing strict confinement, transportation and social communication measures — everyone has understood that the responsibility for “Health” goes beyond the misnamed “Health Systems” (misnamed because they are actually healing systems).
If society has understood, through the high cost in human life and the high economic cost both in a national (macro) and personal (micro) sense, that taking care of, promoting and maintaining health is the cornerstone of any wellness state, it may be the time to take advantage of the current tough circumstances to start a debate and reconsider the value of worldwide health.
This debate should bring to the table new ways of measuring the value of health, new ways of justifying health investment, new mechanisms for health financing, new actors to play a role in the prevention chain as well as in health management, new individual responsibilities regarding selfcare and new fiscal incentives for health generation, resulting in a long list of reforms and reflections.
During the pandemic, we have seen businessmen (CEOs of medium and big companies) become very interested in their workers’ health, not only from a production standpoint but from a profound human commitment to them and their families, in the face of their government’s passivity. Many of these businessmen have had to study and implement concepts that were foreign to them, such as comorbidity, employee risk factors, protection measures and internal action protocols, to reduce disease spread and provide medical services for the prompt management of infected workers, among others; all of it self-financed.
It could be estimated that the pandemic has greatly increased each country’s health spending, in contrast to the pre-pandemic tendency, which was to justify the impossibility of raising the GDP percentage allocated to health. If health spending has increased, it’s not only because of the seriousness of the disease but because of the factors imposed by society. Investments have been made in saving lives and in diminishing the financial crisis that has resulted from the stoppage of productive activities.
It follows then that it is time to reevaluate the role of private health “investors,” beyond each country’s “Healing Systems” (incorrectly named “Health Systems”).
Technological innovation has allowed, in an unprecedented manner, to shorten vaccine development times, showing that some areas of health rentability and capacity are possible in sustainable terms of expense versus value generated.
No country is questioning the cost of the vaccine but many still hesitate to reimburse the cost of treatments for comorbidities that worsen the COVID-19 disease, such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, high cholesterol and respiratory insufficiency.
This should serve as an opportunity for us to redefine reimbursement criteria and to allocate expenditures for “health protection” before external events require critical action, which can be, in many cases, incompatible with people´s lives.
A businessman asked me a question a few days ago: If I wanted to invest in my country’s health, what financial instruments are at my disposal to do so? Truthfully, I was not able to give him an answer. This businessman will surely end up investing in energy, oil or real estate, where he can find clear and authorized financial products. Some kind of medical insurance might have been his only choice for investing in health, and even that is not tax deductible in some countries.
It might well be that, along with the scientific lessons, the greatest takeaways from this pandemic should be ways of involving new players in healthcare (i.e., health investment) in light of the devastating cost paid in the last year.
Thinking that the solution lies in strengthening the misnamed Health System is a conceptual error as evidenced by the last few months. Health requires more players involved in investing, in the relationships among these players, the multiplying effect of those relationships and in every citizen’s commitment to selfcare.