Employers Can Reduce Health Care Costs

June 16, 2008
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LANSING — Michigan Health and Hospital Association is hopeful that Michigan residents and the employer community will start to look at health care in a very different way. The historic model has been to consider health care services and the health care sector generally as a line item in regard to an employer’s cost of doing business.    

“We’re hoping that that model emerges to one where, one, health care is seen as an economic engine for the state that can provide good paying jobs that can help the state grow, and two, where the employer community looks at health care as a partner in terms of leading to a healthier work force,” said Brian Peters, senior corporate vice president of organizational and strategic development for MHA.

Michigan has one of the unhealthiest populations in the nation, Peters pointed out, and that has really stunted job growth. Why would a multi-state employer want to locate a new factory or branch office in this state if they know they’re going to have to deal with an unhealthy work force, he asked.

“If we can help employers address that issue head on by creating prevention and wellness opportunities and really managing health care resources more carefully — so that an employee can return to work more quickly after a surgical procedure, for example —  then we’re going to do a lot to stimulate Michigan’s economy.”

MHA has several health care initiatives in place. MHA Keystone Center for Patient Safety & Quality has been working for the last five years with hospitals, national experts and physicians to create an environment that is safer for patients and creates higher quality outcomes, Peters said.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate $246 million in health care cost savings for the employer community here in this state,” Peters said. “Michigan employers, who ultimately are footing the bill for health care, have been receiving the benefits of those safety and quality improvements. Those efforts have been documented in the New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere.”

The other issue, Peters said, is community health improvement. MHA just completed a year-long project to implement smoke-free hospital campuses throughout Michigan. In the course of doing that, the MHA hopes to set an example for employers to follow, not only in adopting smoke-free policies but also engaging their work force in smoking cessation activities.

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