Healthcare Reform: What part will you play?

One of the largest challenges for the small employer (like us) is providing health insurance coverage for our employees. While wages are our largest single expense, we spend an additional 11% of that amount to purchase health insurance for our employees. The costs of that coverage have increased every year that we have offered it. As a basis of comparison, we have increased our product prices at something closer to five year intervals (2001 and 2006). Those of you who work in the private sector may have implemented price increases in your organizations more frequently than our once in five years, but those in the public sector have found your “fees” (dollars earned per unit of service provided) diminish significantly. No matter where you are in this equation, you have seen the cost of healthcare—physical and mental health—skyrocket in the course of your working life.

President Obama is working to pass Healthcare Reform that will diminish the ongoing increases in the cost of healthcare. On Monday, he announced and the NY Times reported that the major players in the healthcare arena, doctors (American Medical Association), hospitals (American Hospital Association), drug makers (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association) and insurance companies (America’s Health Insurance Plans), along with the  Service Employees International Union, had voluntarily agreed to reduce costs of health care by 1.5% per year over the next 10 years. The dollar amount of this reduction is a whopping $2 trillion…a figure so large that it is almost meaningless to us lesser mortals.

While no one gave any details, it is clear that this huge public relations event was intended to place these players in a good and cooperative light. It is also clear that they offered voluntary reductions hoping to avoid mandates. They did not offer to remove opposition to a public health insurance plan modeled after Medicare from which Americans could buy insurance rather than from a private insurer.

In all of the articles I read on this announcement, mental health / behavioral health was not mentioned at all. While the National Council reports  that Americans with serious mental illnesses die an average of 25 years sooner than other Americans with three-fifths of those individuals dying from preventable, chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, the seriously mentally ill appear to be nonexistent in the Obama administration’s world. It would seem that people who utilize such a significant quantity of healthcare resources might be an important group to consider.

Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize winning economist who writes for the NY Times, sees Monday’s announcements as unlikely to guarantee anything…but as an extremely hopeful event. It is the first time these major industry groups have said that they are willing to participate in cooperative endeavors to reform our healthcare system. Maybe something positive will come out of the efforts this time.

How do you imagine your organization will be impacted by healthcare reform? What kind of transformation would be most likely to help your provider organization? What variety of restructuring will help your clients? And what changes will help you as a consumer of healthcare services? What kind of reform would you like to see?

Please add your comments to this discussion by clicking on the title of this article and entering your thoughts in the box at the bottom of the article.

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