I had the pleasure to interview Joseph Sussman. Joseph is the Director of Operations at BetterMed — a global health financing company. With a decade of experience in building the people, processes, and systems required to support scale and business performance, Joe is focussed on building and expanding BetterMed’s global operations, as well as managing its Compassionate Grounds program. Joe is passionate about working with patients and individuals who need financing for medical care. He has a passion for helping to make medical treatments more accessible and costs affordable. Prior to this role, Joe worked as an attorney at Law in Toronto. Joe received a Doctor of Law (J.D.), specializing in health law, from the University of Ottawa.
Thank you so much for joining us Joe! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I am passionate about creating affordable access to healthcare, as I have experienced first-hand the financial pressure that a medical condition can put on a family or individual. I was born deaf, and have had to go through several surgeries over the years to help me overcome the challenges that being deaf presents. This caused significant financial hardship, but the ability to say “yes” to the treatment I’ve needed has been invaluable to my quality of life now. That’s what drives me as the Director of Operations at BetterMed. It is my job to expand our services so we can reach every American who needs financial assistance with their healthcare, so that they can say “yes” too without worry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I have become extensively involved in expanding our Compassionate Grounds program, which identifies individuals who require further assistance and looks at how we can give them a helping hand. We do this in several ways, be that more favorable loan terms, or gifting a portion of their total healthcare costs to lighten some of the load. It’s a hugely rewarding program, as the relief it can provide to those we help is nothing short of life-changing. Our Compassionate Grounds program is an initiative that I am immensely proud of because on average, we make $750 million in medical bill payments through the program every year.
Can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the healthcare field?
I come from a family of doctors over multiple generations, and so healthcare has always been a primary focus for me my whole life, particularly given my medical challenges. This combination of experiences has meant that I have seen the difficulties that arise in our system from both a patient perspective and a policy perspective, and it’s important to me that I help to break down the barriers between the two. It’s really what inspired me to create BetterMed, and what I think sets us apart as a company. We use our own experiences to solve problems for patients who ask us for financial assistance.
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
BetterMed is changing the face of healthcare finance by offering the fairest loan terms over any company in the country. The amount that people pay with BetterMed is four to six times less than they would with any other loan company in the United States, thanks to our low fixed interest rate of 3.9%, and a minimum interest-free period of three years.
That’s a big deal. It means that as well as making access to healthcare financially possible, we are also doing it in a way that means people can and do get out of debt. It’s part of our commitment to being kind, fair, and compassionate. As well as our compassionate grounds program that I’ve spoken about, we’ll also often advocate for patients when dealing with hospitals and insurance companies too, so we’re out here trying to make a difference.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?
BetterMed is setting new standards when it comes to making healthcare accessible and affordable for all. Not just by fixing our interest rate and offering lengthy interest-free periods, but also because we don’t look at credit scores.
We believe that everyone is entitled to affordable access to healthcare, so we try to take a more holistic approach than other finance companies and factor in things like life circumstances when assessing an individual for a loan.
By directly addressing “cost,” we are disrupting the status quo– the main issue with American healthcare — breaking down the financial barriers that often prevent people from seeking out medical treatment. In turn, this has a direct knock-on effect on the economy — healthier people are more productive, so there’s a broader benefit too.
Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
American healthcare is one of the best in the world from an innovation standpoint, but the system is broken — and it’s broken because of cost. At every level, the system is getting more expensive, and we are generally seeing those costs get pushed out to the public, taking the healthcare they need out of people’s reach — and it’s often those who need it most.
The result is that the US has one of the least accessible healthcare systems among high-income nations, which is a considerable concern. Even with a more significant percentage of the population now insured since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, we face a new problem with a considerable amount of people being completely underinsured. This saddles the user with high deductibles and an average coinsurance payment of 20%, which can cause substantial financial hardship.
Not just that, but insurance companies are shrinking policy coverages too, particularly when it comes to pre-existing medical conditions, so people can’t even get cover for the things they need. I have no doubt this lack of accessibility at every turn is a crucial reason why the US system ranked so poorly. Having innovation is one thing, but what is the point if a large section of society can’t afford to access it?
You are a “healthcare insider”. Can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system?
Access to Finance — there are medical finance companies in the US that offer interest rates that are astronomical and unrealistic, leaving individuals with mountains of debt, on top of the medical challenges they may be facing. As I mentioned above, BetterMed is on a mission to change the face of healthcare finance by offering a solution to help individuals cope with cost. We do this by providing transparent and fair financial support — with terms that are realistic and affordable.
More Compassionate Approaches — Research has found that 66.5 percent of all bankruptcies have been tied to medical issues — reasons are due to high costs for care or time spent out of work. An estimated 530,000 families turn to bankruptcy each year because of medical issues and bills. When it comes to medical finance there needs to be a value line that takes into consideration those that need more support than others. The US healthcare system needs more flexibility when it comes to the payment process. Take BetterMed, for example, we offer flexibility through our Compassionate Grounds program that provides clients with an extended interest-free period. And, depending on the case, we offer to pay for insurance deductibles, coinsurance, etc. as a gift.
Value Line of Services — A recent PwC report highlights that despite the U.S. healthcare industry’s high costs and mammoth size, it is lacking a “value line” of products or services. For example, its own version of a Southwest Airlines that eases the cost of travel, a Costco Wholesale that sells its products and services at a known markup, or an Uber that transports people with a click of a button. Healthcare in the US is a business transaction, so it needs to offer ways to keep its customers happy, retained and loyal.
One Stop Shop of Information — A health information “Super Highway” between all healthcare providers would lessen paperwork and would lower administration costs substantially. There would also be less risk of medical error as all patient records would be handled and shared electronically. The “super highway” would include a history of all patient medication purchased from all pharmacies so that doctors can see all the medications taken.
It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?
Ultimately medical finance companies need to provide a fair and compassionate approach for individuals to finance when it comes to paying their medical bills. The lower the interest, the less rate of default will occur. As I mentioned before, with BetterMed, for example, individuals pay four to six times less than they would with any other loan company in the United States, thanks to our low fixed interest rate of 3.9%, and a minimum interest-free period of three years. I am proud to say that as a result, our customer retention rates grow 100% each year.
The reality is that if the US wants to have universal healthcare, similar to what is available in countries like the UK, Canada, Sweden etc, then tax rates will need to subsequently increase. In exchange, we would have a healthcare system that covers everyone in the nation, without copays or deductibles, with comprehensive benefits, with no insurance networks or interruptions in coverage.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
My favorite book is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. This book exemplifies the fragility of human life and highlights how profit often comes first over patient care. I find that hugely thought-provoking, particularly in the context of the US healthcare system, and the desire to make sure that all people are treated equally when it comes to healthcare, regardless of income, race or religion. By creating BetterMed, we hope to make that a reality, by offering an innovative means for all Americans to get healthcare financing without personal hardship.