What’s Unthinkable Today Might Be Ordinary Tomorrow

It’s too easy to become jaded when you cover a beat. Too often on our beat — managed care — we are left facing the same problems year after year until it becomes a challenge to notice if anything has changed.

“Will physicians ever buy into disease management?” “Can HMOs really offer more choice while keeping premium increases reasonable?” “Why can’t health care become more Web-savvy?”

We are not the only ones to occasionally give into the temptation to throw our hands up and say “Nothing will ever change.” (The cop who does that has become a stock character in movies — and he’s usually hit with tremendous change on the day he’s set to retire.)

In this new year, it is fitting that those in managed care, as well as we who cover the industry, reach for an awareness that change can be directed. Notice I didn’t say that change can occur. Change is always occurring. As the philosopher G.K. Chesterton noted: “If you leave a thing alone, you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone, it will soon be a black post…. But this which is true even of inanimate things is in a quite special and terrible sense true of all human things. An almost unnatural vigilance is really required of the citizen because of the horrible rapidity with which human institutions grow old.”

Many know this intuitively. Hence the innumerable conferences, workshops, and seminars. Our cover story mentions how private and public health care officials in the U.S. journeyed to London to investigate a new agency that seeks to regulate standards and determine coverage of new medications.

The article by Senior Editor Frank Diamond also asks: Could such an agency be launched in the United States? — a perhaps naïve question in light of political and budgetary realities, but worth asking, however, as we observe and influence the development of the “white post.”

MANAGED CARE January 2002. ©MediMedia USA

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