Deciphering The Health Care Ecosystem

I read a telling quote the other day from a doctor, Jordan Shlain, MD of Current Health, talking about medical practice. He said, “Health care doesn’t have an ecosystem... it has a freak-o-system.”

The tremendous complexity—and the accompanying hyperbole from multiple stakeholders—surrounding the task of “reforming” the U.S. health care system has never been more pronounced. And this will crescendo again when the Supreme Court, in a decision anticipated at the end of this month, steps in to decide on challenges to the Affordable Health Care Act. In addition, the coming presidential elections this fall will move the debate into overdrive.

has offered a lot of reporting and much coverage, particularly in the past year, of news events, dialogues and perspectives about what is happening in the nation’s health care arena and how those changes are potentially impacting vision care.

Here is a just partial view—and you can visit to catch up: The legislative challenges to the Affordable Health Care Act, the dialog between managed vision care companies about anticipated changes in the structure of programs and policies, the recent Health Care Forum involving VSP and the AOA regarding the inclusion of “stand-alone” vision plans in the state health care exchanges created by the Act, the views of health care insurance experts at the recent National Association of Managed Vision Care Plans/National Association of Specialty Health Organizations meeting, and just as recently as a week or two ago, the pending acquisition of 1-800 CONTACTS by WellPoint, one of the largest operators of Blue Cross/Blue Shield organizations in the country.

One of the speakers at the NAVCP/NASHO meeting, Harry Reynolds, director of health industry transformation, IBM Global Healthcare & Life, made this point: “The health care ecosystem is changing before our eyes.” He urged the specialty health executives in the audience to consider avoiding the word “ancillary” to describe their benefits to health care decision makers. “You are offering ‘essential’ benefits,” he said, and he suggested the companies be among the primary providers of health care.

Share your points of view about vision care and health care systems, structures and practice challenges with us at We want to reflect your views as we shape our coverage for the Vision Monday community.