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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.