Health Care Hidden Cost Discussion Hammers Down at Program

Published Apr 4, 2012. By Brody Carter.

A program brought citizens, medical advisers and Purdue students out to the Stewart Center Tuesday evening to gain a better understand of health care policy and its effect on the local community.

At “Will Health Care Costs Lead to Economic Ruin?”, topics discussed ranged from disease management to how health care can be provided effectively and efficiently as possible on a local level for employers.

Gary Henriott, the chief executive officer of the Henriott Group, filled in to represent the mayor and emphasized the group’s “very rich plan designs.”

Henriott said that engaging and empowering employees is a key aspect when focusing on a shift to consumer-driven health care.

“The goal is to improve the life and well-being of municipal employees,” Henriott said.

Right now, plan designs are focusing on how to reduce the upward trends of medical inflation in hopes of one day being able to reverse that trend altogether.

“Medical inflation is anywhere from 10 to 15 percent annually,” said Henriott. “It’s very important that we try to reduce this trend as best we can.”

Henriott informed the audience that 50 to 85 percent of all diseases are preventable through disease management. Simple steps to improving overall health include eating healthier, exercising and not using tobacco.

Steve Witz, director of the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering at Purdue, said 55 percent of future medicare costs will result from an increase in per capita spending.

Witz said, “We need to control the rate of increase in per capita costs. I believe that is where we really need to focus.”

Hidden taxes known as cross subsidies are another problem in the rise of health care costs. Witz said that cross subsidization is in essence the covering of other individual’s costs.

“This is not new and is always incurred,” Witz said.

Witz stressed that the importance of the public’s knowledge of health care strategies is in high demand.

“An informed public is essential to drive policy,” Witz said.

Sara Imhof, Midwest regional director for the non-partisan Concord Coalition, spoke about the issues the nation is facing.

“We have payment structures in demands that don’t always match capabilities,” Imhof said. “We have incentives that ask for more, more and more whether it’s efficient or not.”

Other problems are containing the increased costs in health care and figuring out what causes variations in health care costs among different demographics.

Imhof, aware of our economic status as a nation, advocates the proposals and solutions in effort to avoid a failed system.

“Our current policy is unsustainable,” Imhof said. “If we continue to tax ourselves at a rate of 18 percent and not change anything else but the policies and programs that we have come to love, we will run out of money.”

Other speakers of the program included Shirley Mennen, human resource coordinator for Tippecanoe County; Diane Foster, human resources director for the city of West Lafayette; Dr. Bert Rockman, health policy expert and head of the department of political science at Purdue University.