Cost Drivers

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“From the perspective of both a consumer and a legal advisor toemployers (and a former HR manager), redundancies and systemicinefficiencies are both personally frustrating and a huge driver ofincreased costs. If I had my blood drawn and analyzed a week ago bya major lab, why can't doctors two and three and four rely on thattest? These redundancies are exacerbated by the failure of doctorsto consult with each other and act like a team. Another driver thatwe seem to be unable to conquer is fraud and abuse. Unless anduntil we educate every health care consumer and provide them withcomplete knowledge about the value and cost of medical services,they can't begin to help police the system. Employers can play avaluable role and save themselves money by providing education totheir employees and demanding transparency from serviceproviders.”

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Mark Neuberger, Of Counsel at Foley & Lardner

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Economics 101

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The price of goods generally fall when supply increases anddemand decreases. Specific to health care, for many reasons,including an aging population and newly-developed treatments,there's no reason to expect Americans to suddenly reduce theirdemand for health care. And, a surge in the supply of health carepractitioners who are eager to work for lower wages doesn't seemlikely (or desirable). Specific to health care insurance, a primarygoal of PPACA was to expand access to affordable health care. Thisexpansion naturally leads to higher demand levels. Meanwhile,reform led to a reduction in the supply of insurers, whichnaturally leads to higher pricing. These are some serious economicheadwinds.

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While there are many ways to artificially lower demand,Americans (including me) are generally not in favor of those.Meanwhile, we expect our health care practitioners to be wellqualified and to provide exceptional care—we're generally notinterested in watering down the supply. Thus, while there are someexciting new ideas and trends in how to improve health care accessand outcomes, and control the growth of health care spending viaconsumer and practitioner incentives, I expect health care costs tocontinue increasing faster than general inflation.

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Zack Pace, Senior Vice President of Benefits Consulting atCBIZ, Inc

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A Culture of Caring

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We have long believed that healthier and happier employeestranslate into lower heath care costs. Yet, we have had a difficulttime demonstrating the return on the investment in corporatewellness programs. To solve the health care crisis, we need to takea multifaceted approach to a multidimensional problem. Benefitsconsultants can help employers identify employees' well-being needsand recommend meaningful, well-designed benefits, services andtechnologies to address them. Human resource professionals can'tsolve the problem alone—consultants can help to fostercollaboration among stakeholders and can enlist health careproviders and managers more effectively. They can help shapenetworks to include and reward providers who assist employeesimproving outcomes for a better quality of life and work andemphasize the value of training and empowering front line managersto integrate well-being into employees everyday experiences.Fundamentally, solving the crisis starts with a commitment to aculture of caring and drawing in people, trusted advisors, withshared values and a commitment to shared results.

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Emily Noll, National Director of Wellbeing Solutions atCBIZ, Inc: 

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Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is the editor-in-chief of BenefitsPRO Magazine and BenefitsPRO.com. He has covered the insurance industry for more than a decade, including stints at Retirement Advisor Magazine and ProducersWeb.