Healthcare Rebel Alliance: Q&A with David Balat, Founder of Healthcare Finance Specialists

Healthcare Rebel Alliance
Healthcare industry
Health insurance 101

David Balat is the founder of Healthcare Finance Specialists and has broad experience across the healthcare spectrum with special expertise in health care finance. He is a former seasoned hospital executive with over 20 years of healthcare industry leadership and executive management experience.

Balat has earned the privilege of being invited to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform in Washington, D.C., and before various House committees in the Texas state Legislature. He is a published author and op-ed columnist in Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Real Clear Politics, and other news outlets. He is also an active speaker and commentator on matters of health policy, health care finance, and health care reform.

Nick Soman, Decent: How did you get into healthcare in the first place? Why do you care about this?

David Balat: As a child of immigrants, I was told that my dream was to be a doctor. My first job was in a hospital and so was virtually every job after that for many years. As a senior in high school and throughout college, I worked in clinical areas as an orderly where I worked closely with nurses and physicians to assist them in taking care of patients. As I progressed in my career and settled into my role as a healthcare administrator/executive, I realized that there was a significant tension between the suits and the scrubs. A physician mentor of mine, when I was a young executive, pulled me aside one day after witnessing the animosity between administrators and physicians and made the following statement, “Nothing happens in a hospital except at the end of a doctor’s pen.” This statement helped guide my approach in partnering with clinical professionals and the community to make hospitals run effectively and efficiently. I credit a collaborative team effort amongst all stakeholders to the success I was able to be a part of in the turnaround of several hospitals that were in financial distress. I care about this because I believe it can be fixed. Most people are wanting to control the pen or hoard the pen or whatever with the pen. The answer may be as simple as let’s allow the pen holders to do their job and take care of patients. Perhaps we’ve needlessly complicated the whole thing.

Nick Soman, Decent: You've worked as an operator, and also in policy circles. How should healthcare innovators decide when to engage politicians and when to stay under the radar?

David Balat: Government can’t fix our problems, principally because they’ve created many of them. We don’t have a true market in healthcare because of all the cronyism that exists today and then government wants to fix that, not by undoing the cronyism, but by creating more cronyism. Innovators such as employers, brokers/advisors, hospitals, physicians, nurses, tech innovators, etc., should move forward with small changes and let the lawmakers know what they are doing so they know it can be done and is being done.

Nick Soman, Decent: What have been the best and worst things for you about building a career in healthcare?

David Balat: The best things have always been my interactions with patients. Sitting with them in the waiting room, holding their hand when they’ve lost a loved one, helping them navigate the system when they felt lost and vulnerable. It’s always been an honorable profession for me when I was in a position to create an environment where professionals can take care of people. It was special to be a part of that. The worst thing was when patients we took care of presented back in our E.D. months later with chest pain when they received our bills. Experiences like this and several others precipitated my departure from a career I loved.

Nick Soman, Decent: What misconceptions about government would you like to clear up?

David Balat: You get more done at the state level than you can ever do at the federal level. I wish more people understood and believed this. I understand that it’s “sexier” dealing with Congress or the Executive branch but if we want to effect significant change, your best bet is at the state level.

Nick Soman, Decent: Who else in healthcare inspires you, and why?

David Balat: There’s only one person I’ve ever referred to as my healthcare hero and she hates when I say it. Marilyn Bartlett is not only my friend, she’s a mentor and someone I deeply admire. I’m proud to know her and to have co-authored op-eds with her to effect change. She comes from an accounting background from the insurance side without any advanced degrees. She’s a roll-your-sleeves-up type of person and understands the issue deeply. She couples that intimate knowledge with her ability to foster relationships. If you know her, she doesn’t pull punches, and I believe people respect that even when they don’t like it. Her persistence, common sense, and heart made some incredible changes for her state of Montana. She’s gone on to do other meaningful things and I’m sure that won’t be stopping for the foreseeable future.

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