Some of the problems Qmedtrix finds are simply errors—though Quarum notes that seemingly “random” billing errors result in charges that are almost always too high, rather than too low. But there are other practices, such as “unbundling,” in which a hospital bills separately for related procedures that can overstate charges.
“There’s an enormous amount of fraud,” Quarum says.
Insurance companies are often portrayed as the villains, but they are just a part of the equation. “The insurance industry isn’t controlling costs, so they just pass it on through higher premiums,” Quarum says.
The source of the problem, in Quarum’s view, is what hospitals are allowed to get away with. “The public’s perception is the insurance company is the bad guy,” he says. “What you have to understand is that that glitzy, marble-filled hospital may be more interested in your finances than in your well-being.”
Attempts to reform the industry, most notably through managed care, have failed, Quarum says. He compares healthcare costs to squeezing a balloon—press on one end and the air just bulges out somewhere else. And universal health care would only make the problem worse. At the very least, he says, existing regulations need to be better enforced.Quarum and his company are starting to take a more visible role in national efforts to seek solutions to the healthcare crisis. As a member of the Center for Health Transformation, a Washington, D.C., research and consulting organization started by Newt Gingrich, Qmedtrix is engaging in the national dialogue on healthcare reform.
As companies and consumers become increasingly involved in the cost and quality of employee healthcare, Qmedtrix is positioned for breakout success, according to Anne Woodbury of the Center for Health Transformation. “Qmedtrix is definitely primed to become a national player,” Woodbury says.
At some point soon, Quarum says, employers will no longer be able to bear the burden of rising insurance premiums. They’ll pass the cost on to consumers, who will eventually be unable to afford decent healthcare. When the breaking point is reached, the current system will either collapse or fundamentally change. “It’s going to have to be the public that stands up and says that this is wrong,” he says.
Quarum envisions a future in which consumers take control, making critical decisions about their medical care and costs, and communicating in an open, transparent way with doctors and hospitals. He admits that such a system may not exist in his lifetime; in the meantime, Qmedtrix has plenty of work to do.
Quarum finds an escape from the fast-paced work of running a growing business through his love of art. He’s been a connoisseur since his days at Reed and has amassed an impressive painting collection, much of which is on display at Qmedtrix’s headquarters, where the otherwise serene hallways are a riot of color and shape. Quarum’s taste is eclectic, but his eye is drawn to vivid, abstract canvasses influenced by the Fauves and the Surrealists.
He occasionally gives art appreciation tours to his employees, highlighting the artwork that surrounds them.
The freedom of art offers a refreshing break from Quarum’s workaday world, filled with doctors and data. And yet his passion and philosophy about abstract art mirror the radical thinking that informs his approach to business. “Art,” he says, “is just a different way of looking at things.”