Tag archive for "health care"

by Bill, Management, Think About It...

12 Take-Aways From the Forbes Healthcare Summit 2013

No Comments 12 October 2013

Forbes Healthcare Summit 2013 Stage

 

 

 

I was fortunate this week to participate in the Forbes Healthcare Summit 2013 in New York City. Following are some of my take-aways from the event:

 

 

1. Strong signs of general acceptance throughout the room that ACA is here, and that we may as well accept it and look for ways to improve and capitalize on it. But for a few folks like me, the room was full of healthcare industry heavy weights from all sectors…docs, clinicians, care center CEO’s, researchers, medical students, payors, pharma chiefs, investors, healthcare I.T. specialists, etc. One of them, Dr. Stephen Ondra of Health Care Services Corp. noted that, “One of the most beneficial aspects of the ACA is the energy it’s giving to healthcare reform.”

 

2. Dr. Robert Robbins (CEO, TX Medical Center), in making the point that patients are being required to accept greater responsibility for their health, noted that, “Health goes on between doctor visits.” Further, in noting the tectonic shift in the healthcare delivery landscape, he commented that, “70% of all physicians in the U.S. today are employed (as opposed to being in private practice).”

 

3. We were reminded that U.S. healthcare expenditures approximate in size the economy of France ($2.2 trillion USD). Gulp.

 

4. In a discussion on the operation of the exchanges thus far, it was suggested that the relative lack of health insurance sophistication by people shopping for insurance is causing call handle times to run at 4-5x the normal rate.

 

5. Probably the biggest take-away for me was the discussion and conclusions centering on expansion of healthcare I.T. By way of example, Cedars Sinai Hospital in LA has a 500 person I.T. staff and a budget of, get this… a cool $500 million annually. Darren Dworkin (I.T. head at Cedars) said, “By this time next year, our patients will be interacting even more with their own EMR than their clinicians will.” This sure looks like THE most interesting space, because of the need for: Shredding the paper, all of it… Promulgating (really sharing) research and treatment data… Educating & engaging patients… Using right place, right time information to make healthcare processes faster, more reliable, and more efficient. (We learned that currently, 40% of breast biopsies are read for the wrong patient. Yikes!)… Moving healthcare info to mobile platforms

 

6. Comment offered by Dr. Richard Rothman (Rothman Institute): “It’s not enough to care for your patient, you have to care about them.”

 

7. Interesting observation re the need for a LOT of consumer education: ‘In this healthcare transformation, we have the very real risk of commoditizing care until the consumer catches up.” I’ll offer a personal suggestion here that every (repeat, every) American stop yapping and listening to talking heads about Obamacare, and start reading. Or, pretend you’re a drug rep and take your doctor to lunch, and listen to them about healthcare. You’ll learn something. Do it for you…. There, I feel better, and you will too.

 

8. I plan to learn more about the work and plans of Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong of Nant Health. This guy is scary smart, flush with cash, and up to some big things.

 

9. Great presentation by former NBA star, Dikembe Mutumbo on the 300 bed hospital and research center he built in the Congo, chipping in $24 million of his own money. He told the story of being asked by suspicious African pols if he might be doing the hospital as a way of building his brand in order to run for president. I thought that might produce a “NOT TODAY!” response, but he passed.

 

10. Interesting and a somewhat edgy panel with CEO’s of MinuteClinic, plus an urgent care operation, and the newly appointed head of the AMA. On one hand, the need for ubiquitous retail healthcare presence and access is so evident, yet on the other, it conjurs up images of nurse practitioners working in the back of your neighborhood Seven-Eleven (no offense intended).

 

11. My 2nd biggest take-away came from GSK chief, Sir Andrew Witty, on sales compensation. GSK drug reps are no longer compensated on pill volume, but on, “What their customers say about them.” Wow!

 

12. Random droppings:

  • “The next blockbuster drug is patient engagement.”
  • The shortage of PCP’s is expected to reach 45,000 by the year 2020.
  • And one last tidbit to chew on: A prediction was offered from an extremely knowledgeable and respected industry source that within 5 years, employers will be completely out of the health insurance providing business.

 *******

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

 

 

 

by Bill, Management

On ObamaCare, Employers, and the Full-Time vs. Part-Time Decision

4 Comments 18 February 2013

With full implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) now within sight, every organization with a payroll and a modicum of good sense is getting serious about determining their strategy and tactics with respect to the act.

Some have already decided to go ahead and upgrade their health care insurance programs to make them compliant with both cost and coverage requirements of the act. Many are taking a “watchful waiting” approach to see how the first few organizations that pay a fine and dump their workforces (in whole or in part) onto the state insurance exchanges fare. Many others, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors, signal that they will be shifting even more to a workforce constituted of part-time workers in order to escape the act’s coverage requirements. At first blush, the act seems to incentivize some to do just that. Although every management must decide what’s in the best interest of their stakeholders, it is this last group that we’d like to focus on.

In a recent webinar sponsored by People Report and Black Box Intelligence (very credible organizations that provide info. services to the restaurant industry), the unmistakable take-away was that reliance on part-time vs. full-time workers will be a Big.Dot.Issue. 82% of the mostly restaurant managements surveyed indicated that cutting worker hours in order to reduce the number of full-timers with mandated benefits would be their likely approach. Further, 80% of those surveyed indicated that it was their intent to hire a greater ratio of part-timers going forward.

On the surface, swapping one full-time worker for two or more part-timers seems a perfectly sensible thing to do if it helps you avoid a significant expense for worker health care benefits. Yet, managements that make such a move based purely on avoiding the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance are opening yet another, possibly costlier can of worms.

Regardless of the number of hours each person works, the addition of each incremental real, pulsating human being (RPHB), aka “heads” to the beancounters in the crowd, adds significant complexity and cost to the mix. Here are just a few of the factors to consider:

  1. Additional pressure on the physical plant (think bathrooms, parking spaces, work stations, et. al.)
  2. The task of communicating with and leading, directing, guiding the workforce becomes more complex. At some point, additional managers must be hired due to span of control issues.
  3. Recruitment and training costs go up, way up.
  4. Barring some clear and reasonably predictable way to migrate from part to full-time status, you must either recruit from a totally different demographic, or face the prospect of having a bifurcated (and not necessarily enchanted or engaged) workforce. (Think A-scale and B-scale and how well that worked for commercial airlines.)

We don’t advocate one approach over another. Rather, that each management team get beyond the surface considerations and consider all the implications. And, not to put any pressure on you, but you need to do it soon.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

 

 

by Bill, Leadership, Management

Health Care – It’s Time to Move On

No Comments 30 June 2012

In the days since the U.S. Supreme Court’s legal affirmation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), we have witnessed a cacophany of celebratory victory laps and ongoing bloviating about impending doom, loss of freedom, and death panels. Whether you are an employer, an individual citizen, legislator, or health care worker we would offer two words of advice that can usually be found this time of year on signs carried by course marshals at the FedEx St. Jude Golf Tournament – Hush Y’all! It is time to stop our national food fight on this issue.

Simply put, we have neither the time nor economic margin for grandstanding or political theater. We’ve got important work to do. Health care spending amounts to 17% of the nation’s GDP, and is growing at an unaffordable rate. Health outcomes are increasingly second rate, and certainly don’t match the expenditure, or our stature on the world stage. Too many of our fellow citizens are being marginalized because they lack access to quality care, take too little responsibility for their own wellness, or both. Our businesses are being rendered less competitive in world markets because of the cost overhang of a job-based funding model. It is only a matter of time before the relative health of our workforce becomes yet another competitive headwind.

As proposed in our new book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, those of us who are leaders and employers have important considerations to make right now, and “right now” means just that.

  1. We must decide thoughtfully whether to begin (or continue) participating in an employer-provided health insurance plan.  Some might posit that this decision comes down to simply choosing between employer and employee interests, or the least costly option. We would submit that it’s not that simple.
  2. Each of us should be taking steps to become informed (really informed) about the finer points of health care services and economics. It’s time to turn off the TV and do your own homework.
  3. Let’s use our influence wisely, rather than getting into yet one more “Tastes Great vs. Less Filling” debate. One good place to start would be in encouraging tort reform as pertains to health care. For so long as health care professionals are required to practice defensive medicine to prevent unnecessary lawsuits, our system will never be as efficient or effective as it needs to be. Second, we must proceed apace with implementation of a robust, integrated electronic health record (EHR). We’re told that the Veteran’s Administration already has such a system in place. It’s paid for. Why don’t we use it?
  4. It is past time to initiate an ongoing grown-up conversation with our employees about health care – its costs, complexities, options, and responsibilities. And that’s not an easy conversation to have because, for openers, our workforce is anything but monolithic. And, let’s face it, most of us couldn’t care less about health insurance until there is a serious diagnosis pending, or we’re staring down the barrel of a big fat hospital bill.

Our hope is that we can use this challenge as a vehicle to move the nation forward in a positive direction, and perhaps regain some of the credibility and trust that we, as business leaders, have lost over the last decade.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, the newest edition of which is now on sale. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

 

 

by Bill, Management

12 Things I Learned at a Healthcare Seminar Yesterday

No Comments 15 July 2011

Notes From Healthcare Reform Seminar

Memphis, TN 7/14/11

(sponsored by Memphis Daily News)

Keynote Speaker:  Philip Johnson – Argyle Benefits

Panelists: David Elliott (Baptist Healthcare), Scott Morris (Church Health), James Terwilliger (Duncan Williams)

1.  Most of the enabling legislation for the Affordable Healthcare Law (Obama-care) is still being written. Hence, you & I can still have an impact.
2.  “Sexiness is having insurance.”
3.  In 1960, Healthcare represented approx. 5% of U.S. GDP. In 2011, it represents 17% of GDP (and growing). Sound like a problem?
4.  Employer h/c benefits cost increase has averaged 10% since 1960’s
5.  In 2010 Avg. employer h/c benefit cost/employee was $8211. Avg. contribution by single covered employees was $415. Avg. contribution per covered family was $1009,
6.  Coverage changes created by Affordable Healthcare Law

<51 Employees – No new rules on coverage

>51 Employees – IF you offer coverage, there are minimum coverage and maximum cost requirements
>51 Employees – IF you do NOT offer coverage, a financial penalty is incurred

7.  McKinsey survey suggests that 1/3 of employers will eliminate h/c insurance coverage, pay the fine, and dump employees into state exchanges, which become effective 1/1/14.
8.  Prediction that many employers will convert employees to “Part Time” in order to avoid insurance requirements.
9.  Beginning in 2012, employers will  be required to auto-enroll employees into their h/c insurance coverage.
10. Employers will need to do a MUCH better job of communicating with their workforce re h/c benefits, charges, coverages, challenges, or will lose the ROI from that investment.
11. The much ballyhooed Individual Coverage Mandate becomes effective 1/1/14.
12. Each state currently has available a “Pre-existing Condition Uninsured Plan” for residents who have not had coverage for 6 months and have pre-existing conditions that would otherwise limit the coverage they could get. Despite the fact that this is touted as a “great product”, only 21,454 people nationwide have enrolled.

by Bill, Leadership

Get Some Crayons, Mr. President

No Comments 28 August 2009

In his best-selling book, “Beating the Street”, famed investment fund manager, Peter Lynch opined that people ought not invest in anything which “cannot be explained with a crayon.” His reasoning was that, if you can’t explain with something as blunt and simple as a crayon what a company does and how it makes money, then you don’t understand it well enough to own it. I’ve tried very hard over the years to obey this iron law, and it has served me well, particularly on those days when the market is in free fall.

Mr. Lynch’s advice is equally appropos outside the financial world. It holds true, for example, for us manager-types. If we can’t credibly explain with that same crayon what our business/department/team does, then people aren’t going to buy into it, and we can be assured of half-hearted effort at best, and lots of empty seats on our bus. It’s not because people are stupid – not at all, but because they’re rightfully cynical, owing to all the hype, noise, and spinning directed our way as we go thru life.

Our president is finding more empty seats than he would like on the health care reform bus of late, not because reforming our health care system (correction, we have NO health care system) is a bad idea, but because he and those around him have thus far been unable to credibly articulate the problem and the proposed solutions. Granted, it’s not easy being heard above the din of competing interests, but he does have a pretty big microphone.

Peggy Noonan spelled it out as only she can in a recent WSJ piece . “The president’s health-care plan is not clear, and I mean that not only in the sense of “he hasn’t told us his plan.” I mean it in terms of the voodoo phrases, this gobbledygook, this secret language of government that no one understands—”single payer,” “public option,” “insurance marketplace exchange.” No one understands what this stuff means, nobody normal.” And, while I vehemently disagree with Mr. Noonan’s solution (pull the plug – not on grandma, but the whole shebang), she’s dead right about the explaining part.

Mr. President, it’s time for Congress to shut up and for you to find your voice, ‘er crayons. Now.

*****

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Think About It...

Health Care Reform… a Suggestion for Employers

No Comments 12 August 2009

Anyone who has spent even fifteen minutes genuinely listening to the current “debate” about health care reform can’t help but conclude that, as with most things insurance related, there is a whole lotta ignorance goin’ on. Sadly, most of us couldn’t find our insurance card with both hands in a full moon. We don’t really understand our own health care coverage (assuming we have it), and haven’t the faintest idea how the present health care business model, payment system, and having 47 million uninsured using the local hospital ER as their primary care physician impacts each and every one of us.

You’d think that, given the amount of money spent in this nation on health care (roughly $7000 per capita) we would be much better informed than we are about how the “system” works, and what the issues are. Sadly, we aren’t, and it’s beginning to appear that most would prefer to sit on the sidelines like deer in the headlights of an onrushing train while some of our even less informed neighbors scream “tastes great or less filling” into every open microphone.

However this turns out, it has made obvious the fact that those of us who run businesses have a lot of work to do in seeing to it that our people better understand the benefits we’re already providing them. Some would say that it’s not management’s job to educate people on their benefits. Let’s get real steely eyed and put our bean counter’s green eyeshade on for a moment. If you’re not going to see to it that people truly understand (make that appreciate) the significant investment you’re making in them, and thus forego any motivational tailwind from that investment, then why are you making it?

Here’s a suggestion, and a place to start. Just as many organizations are now requiring insured employees to complete an annual health questionnaire (the results are kept from the employer) as a condition of getting the most favorable coverage and rates, do the same thing with a benefits “test.” After reviewing some well crafted, idiot-proof material on how your benefit plans work, how plan participants can reduce waste while gaining the best coverage for themselves and their families, give them a test, the results of which influence their premiums. Then perhaps we’ll start moving the needle, and you’ll start getting some better ROI on your benefit dollars.

*****

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Exemplars, Think About It...

Dr. J's Prescriptions for Health Care Reform

No Comments 28 July 2009

Yesterday, at the conclusion of a routine office visit with my primary care physician, I asked for his opinion on the most important aspects of fixing our health care system. Actually, use of the word “system” is off the mark, because we really don’t have a health care system at all, just a bunch of component parts that don’t work together especially well. I digress.

The doctor’s eyes lit up when he realized that I was seriously interested in the topic, and what he had to say. Owing to the doctor’s kindness, love of his work, and a surprisingly slow Monday in his office, he talked and I listened for the next forty (that’s right) minutes. Here’s what he said…

Dr. J (that’s what the folks in his office call him) suggested that in order to sufficiently bend the cost curve while expanding coverage, we need to do at least three things:

  1. Make patients accountable for questioning, being economically involved in, and then acting on the medical advice and treatment they are getting. He recounted a litany of instances where patients were needlessly tying up valuable health care resources (e.g., pharmaceuticals, breathing treatments for COPD, and recurring office/hospital visits) simply because they refused to quit smoking, lay down their fork, etc. He also suggested that there is a powerful link between a patient’s actually having paid something for a drug, as little as $1, and the likelihood of them taking that medicine as prescribed. He recommends a scenario whereby patients who don’t properly use the advice or treatment lose the ability to be reimbursed for it.
  2. Institute tort reform as a means of reducing the tendency of medical service providers to over-test. Surprisingly, he was not in favor of capping liability awards. Rather, he suggested a pre-trial medical panel review in which a dispassionate group of docs would review the facts and issue a finding to the court as to whether or not malpractice occurred. He cited good results from a handful of states where such a policy already exists.
  3. Finally, he suggested that we need to do something to prevent (as occurs presently) pharmaceutical R&D and marketing costs from being sequestered in this country due to price controls everywhere else around the globe.

I don’t know what the answers are, but I’m confident that if we all take the time and initiative to become better informed, to read and chat up our own “Dr. J’s”, make our voices heard, and demand that our elected representatives at least read any proposed legislation before voting, we’ll be miles ahead.

Godspeed!

*****

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Leadership, Management, Think About It...

A Crisis of Trust

No Comments 20 July 2009

Within the next year, it seems likely that three things will happen, each of which will put added pressure on employers. In likely order of occurrence they are:

Health care legislation – The odds are that some kind of health care bill will soon be signed into law. While this is generally a good thing, the devil they say is in the details. Regardless, it seems quite likely that health insurance in some form will be made available to all (most), without prejudice on the basis of pre-existing conditions. One of the unintended consequences of this is that lots of people, millions perhaps, who have stayed in jobs they really don’t like because of the difficulty in replacing their health coverage will bolt for greener pastures when that is remedied.

Economic improvement – By even the most pessimistic of projections, the current recession should wind down sometime in the next year. Here again, as conditions change, a lot of workers who have been biding their time (and biting their tongues) will find it considerably easier to move on to greener pastures.

“EFCA lite” – Though it now appears that the so called “Employee Free Choice Act”  legislation will not be passed in its current configuration, my bet is that congress will succumb to pressure and give unions something that makes the organizing process considerably easier, a change that is justifiably not especially welcomed by the business community.

Taken together or independently, the message for employers couldn’t be clearer. Despite the fact that we currently enjoy an “employer’s market”, we would do well to take steps now to preserve, and where possible enhance our reputations as leaders, employers, and business people. How?

A great place, no, a necessary place to start is in taking steps to rekindle trust in ourselves and our organizations. In our recently completed “Post-AIG Leadership Survey” 95% of the 286 mostly management level respondents indicated that rebuilding trust (internally and externally) is a Significant/Very Significant factor in successfully emerging from the current business and economic crisis.

If nothing else, leadership is the earned consent of followers, consent that begins with the trust that, as leaders, we are who we say we are, and that even in the absence of guidelines, we will do what is right. Make no mistake, that faith has been broken, not bent, and either by our own actions or by presumed association, our institutions and leaders, each of us, has to some degree been painted with the same brush of suspicion.

The implication for those of us who would lead others is that we must re-earn that trust, and in a larger sense, re-qualify for duty. It doesn’t matter whether you were busily approving bushels of crazy, shady loans at Countrywide, or diligently minding your p’s and q’s as an honest, hard working floor manager at Claim Jumper Restaurants, or a Delta Air Lines in-flight leader. We all bear the burden. As Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo put it recently, “Corporate America, after the immediate financial crisis, has now found itself thrown into a far more corrosive and durable crisis – a crisis of trust. The victims of recession may not differentiate between guilty and innocent parties – everyone in corporate America could take a share of the blame, deserved or not.”

Let’s get going!

*****

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Think About It...

Should Wal-Mart Be on Your Resume?

No Comments 14 July 2009

Our 1998 book, Contented Cows Give Better Milk, called attention to the substantial advantage in business outcomes achieved by companies with sensible leadership and employee relations practices. In it, we compared the difference in business results for a group of 6 companies with reputations for being great places to work (Contented Cows) versus a half dozen of their direct competitors with not quite the same workplace reputation (Common Cows). One of the companies profiled as an exemplar was Wal-Mart.

Despite very good business results, in the intervening years Wal-Mart has suffered more than its share of reputational black eyes inflicted by competitors who’ve endured countless beatings at the hands of the beast from Bentonville, labor unions that have grown weary of the company’s strident union-free posture, and yes, some mis-steps of its own.

Through it all, we’ve defied popular sentiment, maintaining instead that Wal-Mart is still a pretty good place to work, not to mention a convenient place to shop for a huge assortment of items at relatively low prices. Is it sexy? Nope, not one bit. Though I’ve never worked for the company, I get the distinct impression, gained from hundreds of store visits, interviews, and talking with acquaintances who do work their, that the work can be taxing (think long hours, hard floors), not especially lucrative, and, with  2.1 million people on the payroll (fully 50% larger than the active U.S. military), not particularly flexible. Moreover, consistent with lessons learned from other high performance workplaces, evidence abounds that employment at Wal-Mart is not for everybody. But it is right for a lot of people, and if you’re currently looking, you might give it some consideration.

What Wal-Mart lacks in “sexy” it makes up for in “steady”, something a lot of us are finding renewed appreciation for as the economy continues to quake and quiver. To wit…

  • Unlike employees at 3 of the 6 designated “Common Cow” companies (Consolidated Freightways, United Airlines, and General Motors) and a long list of others that have gone through bankruptcy since the book was published , Wal-Mart employees have enjoyed growth, relative prosperity, and job security.
  • Despite all the carping from organized labor about the company’s conservative approach to pay and benefits, Wal-Mart is now among the retail industry leaders in workforce health care insurance coverage. Indeed, the industry’s largest trade group, the National Retail Federation is apoplectic that Wal-Mart has endorsed congressional proposals that would require employers to provide health insurance for their employees
  • And, they actually are doing some exciting stuff on the environmental front. The company is currently working with environmentalist and entrepreneur  Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia) to develop and produce recyclable clothing

*****
A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

P.S. Bill Catlette does not currently own Wal-Mart stock, nor has he ever taken a dime from the company.

by Bill, Management, Think About It...

When It Comes to Health Care, Be Opinionated… Just Don't Be a Dummy

1 Comment 13 June 2009

As the debate over health care heats up, we are being exposed to more flatulence than what we’re typically forced to endure during an election period. Unfortunately, most of us are ill-prepared to advocate or even recognize a reasoned position in the great health care debate because we’ve failed to do much fact gathering. If our knowledge on the subject doesn’t gain altitude soon, our ignorance will cause us to pay a very steep price.

There are those, to include a lot of the bloviating heads on TV who simultaneously spout something to the effect that Americans have the best health care in the world, and that any, repeat, ANY attempts to change the current system are tantamount to socialism. That is pure bunk, on both counts. We can (and should) engage in spirited debate about what solutions will best meet our needs, but the facts are unassailable. Compared to citizens of many other modern nations, Americans:

  • Pay more per capita (approx. $7,000 annually) for health care,
  • Absorb higher rates of growth in health care expense, and
  • Experience worse health outcomes (e.g., rates of adult life expectancy and infant mortality)

As importantly, the way we’ve traditionally chosen to pay for health care in this country makes it next to impossible for U.S. companies to compete globally in any labor intensive enterprise. Spotting competitors an immediate $3/hour cost advantage by virtue of the health care burden absorbed by American employers gives us a distinct disadvantage right out of the starting gate. We’re good, but I’m not sure we’re that good. Just ask GM.

The task of educating ourselves is made more difficult because there are a lot of very smart, well funded people representing myriad competing interests shouting from the rooftops. Make no mistake, this is very big business – about $2 trillion annually (roughly equivalent to the GDP of China). As Regina Herzlinger, Harvard professor and Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute put it in her book, Who Killed Health Care?, “Four armies are battling to gain control: the health insurers, hospitals, government, and doctors. Yet you and I, the people who use the health care system and who pay for all of it, are not even combatants.” We need to be. But we need to be smart combatants.

This matter is too important to simply let our elected representatives in Washington do the driving. For one thing, any objectivity they once might have had is rapidly being polluted by a full court press put on by industry lobbyists. According to a 6/12/09 USA Today piece, “Twenty of the largest insurance and drug companies and their trade groups spent nearly $35 million in the first quarter of 2009, up more than $10 million from the same period last year.” Annualized, that equates to nearly $252,000 per elected representative, and it doesn’t even include the device manufacturers, docs, or hospitals. Further, those same representatives are, by virtue of their position, the recipients of some of the finest health care and health coverage (the two seem to go together) in the world. In other words, they aren’t exactly feeling any pain. If members of this group were to receive the medical equivalent of water-boarding (suddenly losing all health care coverage and being forced to replace it privately at market rates),  I suspect that we might see some drastic changes of tune.

So what to do?

  1. Read. It’s summer time, the time for beach books. Make this a health care summer. Amazon.com has a bunch of good books on health care reform, including the aforementioned book by Ms. Herzlinger. Get started now.
  2. On your very next office visit, carve out 5 minutes to talk with your physician about how she or he sees the situation.
  3. Get involved. Bring knowledgeable speakers into your club, association, or workplace. Talk to friends and family about the issue, and yes, contact your elected representatives.

Just don’t wait, because time and ignorance are not our friends.

*****
A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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