How to invest in health care? Step one: Ask the right questions

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Listen closely to the stump speeches and debate comments of those
running for president and you’ll hear only two related questions raised about health
care. Just two: Who should get insurance coverage? And how do we pay for it? At
the Democratic debate in Las Vegas earlier this week, the word “health” was
uttered 34 times. Nearly all of those comments centered on the fight over
“Medicare for All.” (Translation: “Who should get coverage and how do we pay
for it?”) The rest focused on which of the candidates had yet to flesh out a
health insurance plan. (Translation: “Who should get coverage and, um, how do
we pay for it?”)

For what it’s worth, nobody had a convincing answer for the last

But the bigger issue is that these are the wrong questions to
begin with. The more essential one to ask right now is: How do we invest
smartly in the nation’s health and wellbeing? Indeed, we should reframe the central
debate to focus not on “how to pay for someone else to pay for a decreasing
portion of our increasing health care bills” (i.e., the current system of
insurance coverage) to “how do we get a genuine return on investment from our
mammoth health-related spending?”

And mammoth it is. In 2018, the U.S. national expenditure was $3.6 trillion, or $11,172 per person, according to government statistics—a
figure that’s expected to grow to nearly $6 trillion over the next seven years. Think
about that for a moment. Imagine somebody told you your mortgage payments in
2027 were going to be two-thirds higher than what they are now, even as the
value of your home will decrease. That’s where we are. Mail your check here

So how DO we invest in transforming health care in America?

We’ll have a rare opportunity to explore that question over two days in April at FORTUNE’s fifth annual
Brainstorm Health conference
. We’ll pose it directly to the CEOs of AmgenBaxter
Bristol-Myers SquibbCardinal HealthCenteneCiscoGE
, and Levi-Strauss, who have each agreed to take the hot
seat.We’ll ask the new bosses of IBM Watson Health and Google
about their own prodigious investments in big data, the murky realm
of AI, and how they believe all of this will change health outcomes for

We’ll ask Verily’s Dr. Jessica Mega, Ancestry
Margo Georgiadis, and the CEOs of
Athenahealth, Box, Beyond Meat, and others about the power
(and peril) of personalized data, the challenge of innovation, and how each is shifting
the health care conversation today. We’ll hear from top investor-entrepreneurs
like Sean Parker—who, by the way, is changing the way research in cancer immunology is being done—and from a host of
other top venture capitalists about where they’re investing now (and what
they’ve given up on).

We’ll probe, one-on-one, CMS Administrator Seema Verma about
what we can learn, good and bad, from America’s biggest health payer of all,
Medicare. And we’ll ask the leaders of some of the country’s top-tier hospitals
and medical schools how we should reimagine both of these institutions for the
coming decades. To flesh out this sprawling conversation, we’ll be joined by the
leaders of American Heart Association, the NIH’s National Institute
of Mental Health
, the NBA—yes, Commissioner Adam Silver will
be there too—and some of the most compelling, surprising, and provocative
speakers on the planet.

Helping us direct, frame, and prod, once again, will be my conference
co-chairs, Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington and Dr. David Agus, founding director of USC’s Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for
Transformative Medicine.
We’ll also be
guided by a slew of FORTUNE journalists and the brilliant
physician-interrogators Dr. Lloyd Minor, Dean of Stanford University School
of Medicine
, and CNN’s brain surgeon-journalist-in-residence, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

We may not solve anything in just two days of intimate conversation this April, but I do promise we’ll ask
fundamental questions about everything.

For more on our participants and agenda, click here.

Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE

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