LAS VEGAS—It's not typical to hear several F-bombs dropped within the first five minutes of a keynote discussion at a healthcare conference.
Then again, Mark Cuban typically isn't one of the speakers.
Serial investor, TV personality and Dallas Mavericks' owner Cuban wants to use his own muscle to help burn many of the core elements of the business model to the ground—starting with insurance, he told an audience of hundreds of healthcare entrepreneurs and executives at the HLTH conference Monday evening.
"One of the greatest lies ever told to the American people is that insurance is a proxy for wellness," Cuban said in an on-stage interview with Andy Slavitt, one of the biggest defenders of the Affordable Care Act during and after his time as Obama-era acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
While the two men differ in their approaches to fixing healthcare, Cuban is among nearly 100 leaders to join Slavitt's nonprofit United States of Care aimed at creating public consensus around policies that will ensure healthcare access for Americans.
It's also an issue that's become a passion topic for Cuban in recent years, he said.
Cuban said he's fielded plenty of interest from politicians on both sides of the aisle about healthcare and has taken a deep interest in studying the subject for a number of reasons.
"Right now, healthcare is so politically charged that people aren't trying to solve problems. They're not even trying to identify problems. They're trying to sell what's most politically expedient for them," Cuban said. "Like 'Medicare for All.' Sounds great, but it deals with paying. It doesn't deal with health. It doesn't ask the question, 'How do we make people the healthiest and then pay for that?'"
What Cuban wants to do
Cuban pointed to an example of an unnamed drug on the market that another drug company purchased before ratcheting up the price by about 2000%.
He said he began looking with a team of health experts into how much it actually cost to create the drug.
"They said, 'The market is not huge relatively speaking. But it's about a $70 million market. But for that $70 million, the cost to buy those drugs wholesale for one year for the entire United States: $250,000,'" Cuban said. "So I said: 'Well, why don't we just go fuck them up?'"
He suggested acquiring a wholesaler or manufacturer in a bid to disrupt the drug market. "What we're going to do is create this club kind of like Costco where you pay $100 to be part of the club and we'll go through this whole series of drugs we're doing and we'll charge you $100 but we'll do everything at cost plus 15%."
Cuban said he also funded a study with economists to help crunch the numbers and create a healthcare plan. "I sat and said, 'OK, If I was going to take this on as an entrepreneur, what would I do?'" Cuban said. "The first thing I did was extract insurance companies."
His idea: Most large companies around the U.S. are self-insured. Why couldn't the country act in a similar way?
Specifically, his plan calls for individuals or families making 400% of the federal poverty level or less to get free care via single-payer. But those who make more than that would pay for care on a means-tested basis, paying a percentage of their annual income for coverage up to no more than 10%.
When he hired an economist to score the plan, they estimated in a year it would save $80 billion, he said. The RAND Corporation is working on a 10-year model of what the plan would do.
All this leads one to wonder again about Cuban's political ambitions, despite saying his family "voted it down" regarding the idea of a run for president this time around. Is there a future in politics for Cuban? Slavitt pressed.
"I don't know," he said.