America’s healthcare model needs restructuring, something agreed upon by keynoters and panelists at today’s Healthcare Summit, organized by the WCA’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Healthcare Reform. And since healthcare now...
...comprises 18% of our GNP ($2.7 trillion) and, locally, is an $8.5 billion industry, the time has come to try to get our arms around it.
|Rick Wald, Deloitte Consulting, addresses WCA's packed Healthcare Reform Summit on September 27, 2012 in Tarrytown, New York. |
According to Bill Harrington, chairman of the Westchester County Association, since 2000, 31 hospitals in New York State have failed. In the past four years, there’s been a 147% increase in medical malpractice costs for hospitals and physicians, and 5% of our population counts for 50% of our healthcare costs. Add to that the fact that 16% of New York’s doctors are now over 65. Not a pretty picture.
In Westchester, Scott Hayworth, M.D., CEO of Mt. Kisco Medical Group, said the Group has 280 physicians caring for 300,000 patients, "yet we cannot find talented primary care doctors anymore.”
“Carpe diem,” advised Harrington. “Seize the day. We need strong leaders to address the problem we created. We own it; now we have to fix it -- for the benefit of our children, our grandchildren, and our country.”
Emme Deland, a senior vice president at New York-Presbyterian Hospital who delivered the first keynote address before approximately 300 attendees, noted that “this is a confusing time. Our healthcare system is in the midst of remarkable change, driven by providers, policy makers, and patient advocates. Unfortunately, this election has reduced truly complex issues with multiple challenges to a simple ‘Is it Yes or Is it No?’” She did explain that the Affordable Care Act has increased markedly the number of people who will have access to healthcare, and the quality audits required, though often cumbersome, are worthwhile. But the road ahead is going to be a long one. “Our goal should be that the widest number of people enjoy healthcare coverage. We cannot forget the patient. We’ve made tremendous advances but we need a more collaborative approach.”
Rick Wald, national leader for Deloitte's employer health reform strategy practice, led a spirited discussion that outlined how companies of all sizes can reduce healthcare costs. Providing the employer’s perspective were Panelists Dr. Kyu Rhee of IBM and Joel Seligman of Northern Westchester Hospital. On the insurance side was Paul Marden of UnitedHealthcare, while Harold Iselin of Greenberg Traurig offered insight into the legalities of the Affordable Care Act.
According to Marden, well over half the cost of healthcare is the result of individual health and wellness decisions. As such, employer-sponsored wellness programs represent the greatest opportunity for both healthcare cost reduction and productivity improvement. The panel agreed that all employers, especially mid- to large-sized companies, benefit from taking a more active role in protecting the health of their employees. “Formal wellness programs that encourage positive changes in diet and exercise have the best impact,” Marden explained. However, Iselin cautioned that the U.S., “has to break some eggs.” “The American consumer shouldn’t expect to get everything they want when it comes to healthcare, all at a lower cost.”
The Summit’s final keynote address was delivered by Health Policy Secretary Rima Cohen, who often speaks on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . Cohen began her keynote address by reminding the audience of the troubling statistics that led the Obama administration to take action with regard to healthcare reform in 2009: 50 million citizens without insurance, a burden of uncompensated care that translated into an additional $1,000 annually for every citizen with healthcare coverage. And while not a panacea, Cohen acknowledged that the Affordable Care Act, “plants the seeds we need to move the system forward.” She also pointed out that a recent crackdown on Medicare fraud has expanded the trust fund for the program by eight years.
Clearly, change is on the horizon for the healthcare industry. But, as Bill Harrington noted as he concluded the Summit, an “adult conversation” is needed. “We need to have a rational, informed, adult dialogue – hospital administrators, medical groups, insurance companies, third party medical providers -- all.” He announced that the Blue Ribbon Task Force is now working on what they hope will be the template for the entire nation for the next ten years. “The Westchester County Association (WCA) will continue to facilitate the discussion on healthcare reform and help those in the county shape these changes, rather than merely react to them....”