Office Visit: Inflation challenges health care industry

Timothy Pehrson

The work that goes on every day in Oklahoma’s health system transforms lives. Whether it is providing lifesaving care at no cost to underserved members of our community, developing cutting-edge solutions to better treat complex illnesses, or providing preventive care to keep our community healthy, thousands of lives are touched daily by the work of our state’s nurses, caregivers, and physicians.

We all understand that access to high-quality health care is central to our quality of life. Similarly, businesses looking to launch or relocate understand the importance of a strong health system. Prospective employees will not move their families to a new place without knowing there will be access to high-quality and affordable care when they get there.

In a world where businesses must compete more than ever to attract talented employees, and as our state works to attract new businesses and industries, a strong, community health industry has never been more valuable.

Over the past two years, our industry has worked to continue this life-changing work despite intense challenges and interruptions. We know that the pandemic did not halt the need for liver transplants, chemotherapy, or heart surgery – in fact, the stress of the past two years has often increased the need for non-COVID medical care.

Thankfully, we have mostly emerged from the pandemic; however, new challenges face our country – supply chain disruptions, staff shortages, and record-breaking inflation are just a few. These pressures are being felt by families and businesses across Oklahoma, and the health care industry is no different. In the last year, costs facing health care providers have soared. Pharmaceutical prices have increased more than 35% since 2019, and supply and labor costs have outpaced inflation as well.

Overcoming the challenge posed by inflation will be difficult, and the solution will require providers and health plans to work together. By working together, we can develop systems to coordinate care and manage complex diseases to keep patients healthy and reduce the overall cost of health care. This will take cooperation and investment – no one organization can accomplish this alone.

Health care leaders are working every day to reduce costs, because we understand the importance of affordable and accessible health care for our state. As we emerge from two years during which we have thought about health care access more than ever before, providers stand willing to work with any partner who values our state’s health system for the community asset that is it.

Timothy Pehrson is president and CEO of Integris Health.

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