Insurer as catalyst for productive change?

I am beginning to think change might be afoot in the ivory towers of insurers.

With Aetna’s chief running around talking about reform, and United Healthcare committing to improve service, it would seem so. Now Carefirst, one of the few remaining not-for-profit Blues plans, has a new CEO with some strange ideas.

Strange for a CEO of an insurance company that is. Chester ‘Chet’ Burrell took the reigns December 1 and since then has been meeting with the likes of hospital executives and others that formerly have had ‘contentious relations’ with Carefirst in the past. Why? To reassert its role as a ‘policy entity with nonprofit values’. Can such a thing still exist? If we are to believe Mr. Burrell, then apparently it does.

“Yes, it’s an insurance company, but it has a community mission,” Burrell said in a recent interview. “We want to be catalytic for productive changes in the health system.” While much of what he is proposing is modest, such as increasing electronic claim submission adoption to lower costs, some of his other ideas are quite radical including potentially offering grants to help physicians adopt EMRs more affordably.

Burrell also said he is looking to hospitals and affiliated networks of doctors to coordinate care, especially for the most expensive patients, who often have multiple chronic conditions and visit a variety of specialists.

Could it be that physicians will once again be allowed to practice medicine instead of pulling double-duty as clinicians and administrative gate-keepers?

I’ll be keeping my eye on Chet, and all the rest of them.