Health care at a crossroads

Economic Trends 2017


The health care industry is an exceedingly complex and enormous chunk of the national economy. It represents around 18 percent of the gross domestic product. But for many businesses and individuals – and even for the state and federal government entities that administer Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements – it has become unaffordable.

Hospital costs and insurance premiums have been climbing steadily for years.

In May of 2016, the Milliman Medical Index estimated that the total cost of health care that year for the average American family of four covered by a typical employer-sponsored health plan would exceed $25,000. In 2001, the first year the Milliman Medical Index began tracking annual health care costs, the projected cost was $8,414.


Cynthia LaConte, chief executive officer and president of Milwaukee-based Dohmen, believes this needs to change.

“We have to change the payment system away from volume-based incentives to outcomes-based rewards,” she said. “We have to apply technology. We have to apply market-driven principles like transparency and consumerism. People want to believe this is a political issue, but it’s not. Our nation’s health care crisis was created over decades spanning administrations in both parties. It will be solved the same way.”

LaConte will be a presenter at the Northern Trust Economic Trends Conference presented by BizTimes Media on Jan. 26.

In addition to her role leading Dohmen, LaConte is the founder and president of Dohmen’s Life Sciences Services company.

She will speak about the unique role health care plays in the national economy, as well as the role the life sciences industry plays in the state economy and the key economic trends that are shaping it, such as value-based pricing, precision medicine and the use of new, disruptive technologies.

“All business leaders have an important role in shaping the world around them,” LaConte said. “They carry an economic and social responsibility to positively influence employees, customers, communities – even entire industries. But health care is unique; it touches everyone.”

The debate over the direction of the nation’s health care industry is expected to intensify under the incoming presidential administration. President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have made it clear they intend to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare.

“Rhetoric like ‘repeal and replace’ isn’t helpful because it misleads the American people into thinking there’s some kind of party-driven, simple solution out there,” LaConte said. “There isn’t.”

In reality, the industry and the Affordable Care Act may be far too complex and far-reaching to dismantle and reassemble all at once.

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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