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How's Your Health?

When health care is healthy, it's the industry to be in--and the current chaos in the sector may be the opening you need.

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This story appears in the July 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Health care is a $1.4 trillion industry. It's been estimated to consume 15 percent of our gross domestic product. But it's also an industry in flux. Consider hospitals, which are struggling to improve their financial performance as they compete increasingly with private clinics and urgent care centers that offer specialized services at less cost. "That's revenue that won't go to the hospitals anymore," says Jody Root, a partner and chair of the health law department at Foley & Lardner, a law firm in San Diego. "The traditional model of health-care delivery has changed."

Today, health care is a Pandora's box of problems. Well-trained health-care professionals are in short supply. Providers and insurance companies are trying to meet a spring 2003 deadline for compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which sets new federal privacy standards for patient documents. Meanwhile, employers--stymied by rising insurance premiums--are looking to shift more cost to employees at the same time that consumers and doctors, tired of managed care, are wanting more control over their health choices. As a result, insurers are moving far away from the HMO model toward defined contribution health plans that offer more choices. State governors, driven by deficits, have asked the federal government for $6 billion to cover expected Medicaid shortfalls, an amount they're not likely to receive from politicians in Washington who so far have been dragging their feet on the health-care issue. The list goes on.

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