Economic Development, Health Care, and Higher Education

Health care summit presents industry forecast

January 8, 2016
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GVSU West Michigan Healthcare Economic Forecast
Jean Nagelkerk, left, Paul Isely, Kevin Callison and Leslie Muller take part in a panel at the GVSU West Michigan Healthcare Economic Forecast. Courtesy GVSU

Chronic illness, jobs and Medicare will be at the forefront of discussions among health care leaders in the region this year.

Decreasing chronic illness will be one of the most important avenues to decreasing future health care costs, according to participants in Grand Valley State University’s ninth annual West Michigan Healthcare Economic Forecast.

This morning’s event at GVSU’s Eberhard Center brought together two panels of health care professionals to talk about trends in West Michigan.

The first panel, which consisted of GVSU professors of economics Kevin Callison and Leslie Muller, focused on updates to trends presented in 2015 as well as results of a community survey that was conducted over the summer regarding health insurance coverage and perspectives of health care access in West Michigan.

Callison discussed continuing job growth in West Michigan in the health care industry, the likelihood that the aging baby boomer population will present challenges in the next 10-15 years, lifestyle changes and inpatient versus outpatient visit comparisons.

“The proportion of the population age 65 and older is growing,” Callison said. “That group uses the most health care resources and has the highest expenditures.”

In fact, Callison noted this is the first time in history that the 65-and-older demographic is not the least populace group.

Callison said the proportion of the total population that is overweight or obese accounts for two-thirds of the population nationally. He said those numbers are reflected similarly in West Michigan.

He also noted emergency room visits were up despite more people having insurance.

Callison said focusing on reducing emergency department visits would be important to reducing overall health care costs.

He also reported on Medicare expenditures, noting there has been a decline in these expenditures nationally, and Grand Rapids’ Medicare expenditures are below the national average. Callison said it’s the first time in the nation’s history a decrease has occurred, but noted recent data indicates the trend will soon reverse.

“Medicare expenditures are rising again,” he said.

Muller shared the results of a community survey conducted earlier this year that captured responses from 500 West Michigan residents.

The survey looked at how the recent Medicaid expansion was impacting care.

“One of the concerns with the Medicaid expansion is that coupled with the shortage of primary care physicians, will there be too many patients and not enough physicians?”

The majority of respondents said they did not have difficulty finding a primary care doctor. Respondents also said they had not noticed a change in wait times or times with the doctor, and for those that did notice a change, the majority said it was for the better.

“We haven’t seen a problem with over-demand for physicians,” Muller said.

The second panel consisted of Jim Green, executive director of human resources for Lacks Enterprises; Jay LaBine, chief medical officer, Priority Health; Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; and Thomas Simmer, senior vice president and chief medical officer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Panelists spent 10 minutes discussing their particular area of expertise, with all four panelists highlighting the problem of chronic illness on health care costs.

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