Part 2 of a 2-Part Series (Read Part 1 HERE)

One of the most established Health Executive MBA programs in the U.S. is the one offered by the University of Miami’s Patti and Allan Herbert Business School (Miami Herbert). The University’s highly regarded faculty includes Dr. Steven G. Ullmann and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

Dr. Ullmann, a professor of health management and policy, has been on the university’s faculty since 1979. Meanwhile, Alex Azar started a teaching and policy research position at the university in August of this year.

I had a chance to chat virtually with the two professors recently and gained some valuable insights into U.S. health policy. I also learned a bit about why these men choose to teach and how their work prepares healthcare leaders for the challenging times ahead. Below is a lightly edited transcript of our interview.

Q     The media has been warning Americans that Medicare is running out of funds. Is the situation as dire as the headlines state? What can be done to improve the program’s solvency?

Dr. Steven Ullmann

Dr. Ullmann     Medicare insolvency is forecast for 2024. Insolvency is coming a few years sooner due to the COVID pandemic. Insolvency does not mean Medicare is broke. It means that outflows are projected to exceed inflows. With so many baby boomers entering retirement and living longer (the life expectancy of a U.S. citizen has increased from 69 to 79 since Medicare’s inception in 1965), there are simply not enough workers to sustain the program. Aside from some modest tweaks to co-pays and deductibles, a reduction in benefits is not politically feasible. After all, retired people vote! Meanwhile, means testing – whereby the level of Medicare benefits would be reduced for those with high incomes and savings – also appears to be politically impractical. There is virtually no current discussion of entitlement reform on Capitol Hill. The hope is that increased efficiencies will allow providers to survive on lower reimbursements. Technology, especially artificial intelligence, offers a cautiously optimistic path towards bending the cost curve.

Q     What is your overall assessment of the various value-based care initiatives? Are we on track to achieving The Triple Aim?

Alex Azar

Dr. Ullmann     The value-based care initiatives are a positive. The idea of encouraging efficiency while maintaining quality is well intentioned and sound. That said, the current incentives are not strong enough. Most value-based programs do not contain enough risk. Bundled payments appear to the most promising so far.

Secretary Azar     As Secretary, implementing our value-based care initiative was one of my central priorities. I set four preconditions: 1) interoperable health information technology with medical records personally owned and transportable, 2) removing artificial regulatory barriers to coordinated care by non-common owned providers, 3) transparency of price and quality information so markets can function, and 4) paying for value, health, and outcomes, rather than procedures  and sickness. We implemented each of these four key initiatives, the conditions are set for the system to deliver value-based care in the next decade.

Q     Why does a healthcare executive need a master’s or MBA? How quickly, on average, can a healthcare professional recoup his or her investment in the advanced degree?

Secretary Azar     I will need to defer to Dr. Ullmann on this one generally. But I would say that the business of healthcare is incredibly complex. Simply the fact that purchasing decisions are separated from financing systems makes healthcare one of the most complex areas to understand in business. To succeed as a healthcare executive, one must have a keen sense of micro-economics, marketing, customer understanding, financials, the regulatory environment, and the external ecosystem. As much as we try to provide this kind of information in undergraduate programs, there is no substitute for the depth and focus that can be provided in a graduate program.

Dr. Ullmann     I will share with you three case studies, all of which demonstrate the program’s value and validate the axiom that “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

• A solo practitioner, an ophthalmologist, upon completion of the program implemented just one concept learned and was able to increase annual practice revenue by $70,000;
• A member of a three-person practice, upon completion of the program deployed methods learned and saw a $240,000 annual revenue increase;
• The owner/operator of a medical practice consulted with Dr. Ullmann on a valuation for the sale of the business. After the consultation, he was persuaded to up his asking price from $1.6 million to $6.1 million. He ultimately sold the practice for $6 million.

The Executive MBA in Health Management & Policy offered by Miami Herbert is a 21-month program that promises to transform the healthcare professional’s career. With its distinguished business faculty, close ties to UHealth and the University of Miami’s medical school, and partnerships with health care leaders worldwide, HEMBA offers a rich learning experience that positions graduates for new leadership roles and career paths across healthcare. Classes are small, usually numbering 20-30 and the program is hybrid with online and in-person learning. In-person learning is on weekends to enable students the ability to balance their current job with the academic demands of the program. The dually accredited HEMBA, currently ranked #1 by US News & World Report, attracts a wide range of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, insurance executives, healthcare finance and IT managers, medical device and pharmaceutical professionals, government administrators as well as entrepreneurs. The next class starts in January 2022.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 3rd November 2021 9:28 pm