Employers discuss health care reform
Doug Wood delivered what may have been the most surprising fact of the day to the employers who gathered Friday for a discussion about health care reform.
The fundamental problem with health care in the United States, he said, is that "we aren't getting value for the money we're spending. One-third of the care that's delivered is wasted."
Part of the reason it's surprising: Wood is a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
He told of a man in Texas who had undergone six angioplasties and two heart surgeries, "all unnecessary," he said. "His condition could have been managed with medication."
Indeed, if you're thinking health care costs in Minnesota are bad, consider this: The same $6,000 procedure performed in Minnesota would cost $16,000 in Texas, Wood said.
"How many of you think that the more you spend on health care, the better the care?" he asked the 50 or so local employers gathered for the forum.
No hands went up.
"You're an unusual group, then," Wood said at a forum Friday sponsored by the Austin Chamber of Commerce and Austin Medical Center. "Most people think that way, but it's just not true."
Reducing the amount of unnecessary health care delivered is just one piece of health care reform, however.
The cost of insurance premiums is rising nearly five times faster than earnings, said Doug Loon of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"Premiums are not going to go down," he said, making it more important for businesses to know what their costs will be.
What tends to happen then is what Charles Moline calls a cost shift. Moline, president of Corporate Financial Services in Austin, said companies do that in a variety of ways.
"They raise premiums, deductibles and co-pays, and eliminate or reduce benefits," he said. "Cost shifting drives financial behavior changes, but doesn't drive wellness. We need to address what's causing the claims, not just who's paying the bill."
Incentives such as lowering premiums by managing health risks are key, Moline said, providing a win-win situation: healthier employees and lower health care costs for all involved.
The four major controllable factors are tobacco use, hypertension/blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity.
Studies have shown that 50 percent of the population uses 95 percent of the health care costs every year.
Employers at Friday's forum agreed that among the benefits provided by a healthier workforce were workplace satisfaction and reduced absenteeism — leading to an increase in productivity and a dip in the cost of operations.