On November 10, 2009, I attended a program, co-sponsored by the Committee for Economic Development (CED) and the Bay Area Council, regarding healthcare reform in the United States.
A highlight was a description of Safeway‘s programs to promote employee wellness and (in so doing) foster employee and Safeway financial health. This talk presented key concepts – from overall principles … to steps people can take to improve their health … to details as to how the company is capping the charges associated with one type of insurance-covered procedure.
The principles include …
- Insure everyone – no one should be left out.
- Create more personal responsibility.
- Encourage prevention and wellness by linking healthy behaviors to financial incentives.
- Provide cost and quality transparency.
- Pay more for results and less for service rendered.
Some observations include …
- 70% of healthcare costs are driven by behavior.
- Four chronic conditions comprise 74% of healthcare costs.
- Obesity is a driving factor in all four chronic conditions.
- Transparency is critical to controlling costs.
The talk included suggestions for how people can decrease weight via reduced food consumption and more physical activity.
One cost-capping measure is based on the notion that previously, in one geographic area, the billed cost of a colonoscopy might be as low as under $900 and as high as more than $8,000 – with the most significant difference being the cost of, in effect, renting the facility in which the procedure is performed. Safeway insurance plans now pay up to an amount for which any employee in the region should be able to get a colonoscopy without travelling more than 30 miles.
Evidently, Safeway is finding enough success and promise in the overall program that it is now providing how-to advice for other employers.
Also, this CED / Bay Area Council program discussed aspects of possible forthcoming legislation, including a bill proposed by Senators Wyden (Democrat – Oregon) and Bennett (Republican – Utah). CED provided copies of its report “Quality, Affordable Health Care for All: Moving Beyond the Employer-Based Health-Insurance System.”
I appreciate perspective provided by key speakers, including ..
- Charles Kolb, President, CED.
- Robert Chess, Chairman, Nektar Therapeutics.
- Ken Shachmut, Executive Vice President, Safeway Health LLC.
- Alain Enthoven, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University.
And, I appreciate CED’s inviting me to this event. (Previously, I served on its Board of Trustees). It was good to reconnect with Charlie, Rob, and Michael Petro (each associated with CED) as well as to talk briefly with Ken, Alain, panel participant Lenny Mednonca (Chairman, McKinsey Global Institute), and panel moderator Lynn Jimenez (KGO).
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