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Let Americans Shop for Health Care: Athenahealth CEO

A patch to stop the reimbursement cuts to doctors who treat Medicare patients included in the "fiscal cliff" deal doesn't address patient disengagement from the health care process, Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" on Wednesday.

The so-called "doc fix" included in the bill to avert automatic tax hikes and spending cuts blocks a scheduled 27 percent cut in reimbursements for doctors for one year, with other health care providers having to pay for the fix.

Bush said the doc fix includes no structural or systematic change to the way we pay for health care and that needs to change.

"It's very clear we have insulated the patient from the choices that are available to them by making it an all you can eat buffet-type of benefit design with Medicare and Medicaid," the executive said. "That has to stop."

Bush advocates letting people shop. "We are fanatic shoppers but we don't shop for our health care and as a result we don't really like it no matter how much it costs," he said.

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Anything that allows doctors, caregivers and patients to shop for health care would also create a wider range of products and increase patient satisfaction.

Doctors will be the first to start shopping for services in order to cut costs and make more money, Bush predicted. "And as the doctors get good at making money by shopping, consumers will have the room to take over years down the road."

For Athenahealth, which provides cloud-based electronic health records, the increased complexity in the health care industry should be good for business.

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"As those changes in rules become more profound, more doctors, more caregivers and more doctors are going to need to get onto the cloud," Bush predicted. "I really think this internet thing is going to be big and nothing about the fiscal cliff is going to change that."

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