John Baackes, CEO of L.A. Care joins Jane Wells this week for CEOs You Should Know to talk about how his organization offers affordable health coverage to more than 2.2 million people in Los Angeles County.
Born and raised in the Midwest, Baackes earned his bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University before beginning his professional career in the northeast working for various healthcare companies - where it became clear to him that that not all patients were being treated equally under the current healthcare system.
"I was involved in the beginning with what we would call a 'full-service' health plan," Baackes says. "And it was great, but as I went along through the years, I began to see we were discriminating against people on the basis of the plastic card in their wallet. So if you were uninsured, you couldn't get in to see certain doctors. If you were on Medicaid, certain doctors wouldn't take payment from Medicaid and you couldn't see them. And even Medicare, which pays more generously, there were doctors that said, 'We don't want anything to do with it.' So it seemed to me that was not right."
For many people, healthcare can be complicated and costs difficult to understand. When asked about this, Baackes chuckles and offers this perspective on his chosen career.
"First of all, Health care is not rocket science, it's way more complicated," Baackes says. "Certainly if anyone were starting out with a blank piece of paper, you would never design what we have now."
If Baakes were king of the world and given the opportunity to design a healthcare system from scratch, he'd go with a "single payer" system, describing one organization that would run healthcare and ensure everyone healthcare needs were met.
However, as Baackes warns, that's not exactly something the country can create out of whole cloth.
"Unfortunately, because we've built up an entire system based on private insurance over the last century, it's hard to get to a single payer system without smaller, incremental steps." Baackes says. "Lots of innovation has come out the way we're organized today. But, I don't want to lose that element of competition, because that leads to innovation."
Learn more about John Baackes and the important work L.A. Care does with Jane Wells' interview on the latest CEOs You Should Know.