Humana CEO Bruce Broussard says COVID-19 shocked the health care system, but better care will result

The seismic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic – and the rapid innovation needed to meet the moment – have permanently changed health care in ways that will make it more convenient, more accessible and more holistic, according to Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard.

Broussard spoke during the Virtual Summit on Health System Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic, which assembled dozens of the nation’s top health care leaders in a first-of-its-kind event. Via virtual panels and interviews, participants discussed strategies to recover from the pandemic and the mid- and long-term implications to the future of health care in America.

Broussard was interviewed by the Summit chair, Susan Dentzer, Senior Policy Fellow, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, Former Editor in Chief, Health Affairs, Former Health Correspondent, PBS NewsHour, Washington, DC.

You can watch their conversation here.

Humana has a broad role to play in this transition, he said, noting the company’s efforts to coordinate telehealth visits, provide safe home visits, make sure prescriptions are uninterrupted, and provide food to those in need. He also spoke of efforts to provide financial security by waiving numerous co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles for members.

“We’re helping them engage where they are, at home, helping them feel comfortable with the health care system, encouraging them that there is safety there, reducing the financial burden that can come from this, and continuing to work with providers to connect them with our members.”

Virtual care has rapidly transformed the landscape for the better, he said.

“I think we’re here to stay. I think telehealth is going to continue to find more and more applications in the delivery of care. We find it virtually, but also in the assisted part, where a nurse can go into a home and conduct a full physician visit – specialty or primary care – with the oversight of a physician. The ability to provide that in someone’s home is convenient. You don’t have to worry about transportation, scheduling and other complexities.”

He said such advances must apply to all aspects of health, including behavioral health stresses like loneliness, depression and social isolation. And he praised the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for quickly granting waivers that improved access to telehealth.

Broussard noted that the pandemic has highlighted the problems of a health care system that runs on volume, exposing the flaws of the fee-for-service system and showing the need for value-based payment models.

“I think we have a big obligation” to seize this moment, he said. “We are big believers in having aligned interest in health and cost, and value-based payments make all the sense in the world. Today about 60 percent of our members are in some kind of value-based payment model. Any time a provider wants to move to that, we’re here to help them.”

He acknowledged the financial strain on providers, and Humana’s bid to help, as elective procedures were canceled during the pandemic and people stayed away from doctors’ offices. “We’ve accelerated about a billion dollars of payments to providers to ensure that they can make it through this,” he said.

In closing, Broussard said the pandemic had inspired Humana employees to rally together, to innovate and work harder for the people the company serves.

 “The most impactful thing for us as an organization is keeping the customer and the provider at the forefront,” he said. “That has been a great uniter for our associates and teammates in the company, has been a great way for us to make decisions, ensuring that the people we serve every day are taken care of. The decision-making around that has been our North Star.”

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