A ‘partnership’ that poses many questions
I read with interest the July 1, 2020 article in The Royal Gazette that Argus Insurance has purchased two medical practices, Island Health Services and the Family Practice Group.
These are — I should say were — two of the larger GP offices in Bermuda and the transaction took me a bit by surprise. The executive team at Argus were quoted at length in your article about the “partnership” and how by “joining insurance and healthcare together, their aim is to make quality care more affordable for more people”.
That all sounds very wonderful and utopia-like, but let's not be fooled by corporate talk. No large company such as Argus considers a transaction that doesn't benefit its bottom line and bring larger profits, bonuses and higher stock prices to shareholders.
This is capitalism at its best. What the public need to see is more transparency behind this transaction, and we need to understand what happens “down de road”, as we Bermudians like to say.
Being an inquisitive fellow, I started to ask myself some questions and make a few observations:
1, Is this transaction an acknowledgement that Bermuda is now destined to proceed down the road of a “managed healthcare system”, à la the United States and Britain, where large corporations own medical practices?
2, Could the strategy for higher corporate profits risk quality care for the patient, and, more importantly, will Argus now direct health insurance clients to their new subsidiaries? (What happened to the choice of the consumer to choose their medical practitioner?)
3, Will the Argus model be adopted by others and cause the destruction of medical practitioner entrepreneurs? (Virtually every medical office in Bermuda is owned by either a single practitioner or a group of partners. They are entrepreneurs, taking on risk, plying their trade and employing Bermudian staff.)
4, In other jurisdictions, insurance owners of these medical offices set the prices for various procedures and treatments. Will such price setting lead to future monopolistic behaviour and reduce competition?
5, As doctors become “employees” of large corporate entities, will the patient-doctor relationship be as strong and close as in the past? (Will patients attending GP offices in the future likely see a different face on each visit? I don't get the sense that patients are better served in this new scenario.)
These are just some of the observations and questions that came to me after reading your article, Mr Editor, and there are likely many more I haven't thought of.
Perhaps your journalists could seek more information from this newly joined business relationship that shows clearly the tangible benefits to consumers. Perhaps then I will become more convinced it is right for Bermuda.
I'm not so sure at present.
ALLAN D. MARSHALL