We sat down today with one of the leading voices in American health care, George Halvorson, Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente. In some critical respects, Halvorson's perspective may be singular in its relevance to the ongoing debate because, with 8.6 million members, 14,600 physicians, 35 medical centers, and 431 medical offices, Kaiser is the largest managed health plan in the U.S. More importantly, it is also profitable and controling its costs while delivering a high level of care to a satisfied customer base. In short, it is achieving much of what American health care isn't right now.
In his new book, "Health Care Will Not Reform Itself", Halvorson explains the "vertically integrated" approach to delivering care that sets Kaiser apart. By bringing more of the functions of health care delivery under a single, umbrella -- from pooling risk through insurance to delivering and optimizing care by managing doctors -- Kaiser better aligns the costs of health care with their ultimate outcomes. And, while he thinks the Kaiser model per se is politically infeasible in our current climate, an approximation of it, he calls "virtual integration" very well may offer the way forward. Stay tuned for his interview to get a peak at what the future of American health care should be, if not will be.