The Luis Lang Story

The following is an excerpt from Navigant Healthcare’s Pulse Weekly. Click here for a complete copy of this week’s article.

Last week, the frenetic pace of change in healthcare was on full display. The top tier trade and business media had much to cover…

  • A major trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, announced its long-time CEO was stepping down to run one of the sector’s major not-for-profit plans.
  • New studies found that many uninsured Americans remain confused about how to access coverage through the Affordable Care Act and the insurance marketplaces.
  • Mega-deals were in the investor spotlight as major players line up their portfolios to compete in the new normal for bigger scale, global market access, and efficient capital.
  • U.S. News & World Report released its “Best Hospitals” annual edition featuring ratings for 12 adult specialties in 4,900 U.S. hospitals. Just another week in healthcare.

The story of Luis Lang didn’t attract mainstream media attention, but it’s nonetheless notable as important as it gains momentum through social media.

After running up $9,000 in medical bills and exhausting his savings for sight saving surgery, Lang, a 49 year old self-employed contractor and diabetic, turned to the Affordable Care Act marketplace exchange for help. He was disappointed: 2015 enrollment had already closed and his income disqualified him from a federal subsidy to buy coverage.

Per The Charlotte Observer’s reporting, Lang, a Republican of Fort Mill SC, said he knew the Affordable Care Act required him to get coverage, but he failed to enroll because he was confused about its income reporting requirement since his had disappeared. He took matters in his own hands: he launched a public appeal through crowdsourcing website GoFundMe that raised $12,000 from 600 donors including many “self-described liberals and Affordable Care Act supporters saying they hope he’s learned a lesson” and arranged for Dr. Andrew Antoszyk, an eye surgeon with Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Associates, to do the procedure at reduced cost from its $30,000 sticker price.

The stories in healthcare that get mainstream media attention are the mega-deals, personnel changes, and company reports that are to be expected in an industry that’s approaching $2.8 trillion annually. The story of Luis Lang is, in many ways, equally important. It reminds us about the…

  • Confusion around the Affordable Care Act, insurance marketplaces and how individuals are impacted regardless of their income.
  • Role of social media in our industry, requiring doctors, hospitals, drug companies and health plans to recognize that “unconstrained transparency” via social media can expose “everything.” Reputations built over years can be disassembled overnight.
  • Worthlessness of retail charges in healthcare: no one pays sticker prices.
  • Willingness of Dr. Antoszyk to help: most doctors do good deeds everyday that don’t get attention.
  • Take charge response of Luis Lang. Despite headlines couching his story in political terms, his actions were about solving his own problem. Instead of adding to bad debt and cost shifting, he chose to make a deal.

Healthcare is about more than policies, programs, and partisan debate: it’s about people like Luis Lang, and Dr. Andrew Antoszyk. These stories don’t get the attention they deserve.

Paul

Sources: Ann Doss Helms, “S.C. Man Will Get Sight-Saving Surgery As Liberal Donors Chip In,” The Charlotte Observer, May 14, 2015; Tara Culp-Ressler, “Lifelong Republican Turns on his Party, Embraces ObamaCare,” Think Progress, May 19, 2015; Brainwrap, “Well, I’ll be Damned: Luis Lang quits GOP, calls for Single Payer,” Daily Kos, May 19, 2015; Steve Anderson, “Lang Wants to be Obamacare’s Poster Child,” HealthInsurance.org, May 22, 2015; Leonard Pitts,Luis Lang discovers GoFundMe worse than Obamacare,” NewsPress.com,May 19, 2015.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Navigant Consulting, Inc. The information contained in this article is a summary and reflects current impressions based on industry data and news available at the time of publication. Any predictions and expectations noted herein are inherently uncertain and actual results may differ materially from those contained in this article. Navigant undertakes no obligation to update any of the information contained in the article.

©2015 Navigant Consulting, Inc.