Thursday, April 24, 2008

Employer-based Tobacco Control: Scotts Declares War

On its way out of World Health Care Congress meeting, the Disease Management Care Blog listened in on the last plenary session with Jim Hagedorn, CEO of Scotts Miracle-Gro, Inc. He has a reputation for being a straight-talking former F-16 fighter pilot and he did not disappoint. Once again, the topic was on how the employer-based health-insurance sector isn’t going to hold its breath while government and policy makers slog along.

Want to work at this company? Well, you better not use tobacco, or at least figure out a way to beat the screening test. You can read all about it here. Mr. Hagedorn didn’t offer any particularly new information but the DMCB came away with some impressions:

This isn’t principally about the money: Persons with a military background aren’t necessarily predisposed to subtle distinctions. Tobacco is a preventable and treatable behavior that leads to disease and death among employees. Scott’s CEO has declared war.

CEOs are becoming health-industry experts: It was pretty obvious that Mr. Hagedorn was familiar with the science of nicotine addiction. He seemed to have more than a passing familiarity with much of the lingo that has heretofore been confined to us medical types. And why not? Health care costs chewing into cash flows. The days of assigning this to some cubicle down in the Human Resources department are coming to an end.

The ‘automobile insurance’ analogy was raised again: Just about everyone has a car and understands how premiums are tied to the imperfectly fair co-morbidities (lots of chrome or excess of horse-power) and excess utilization (accidents). There are important differences compared to health insurance, but the DMCB wonders if this analogy will flavor future national debates or local purchasing decisions when the employers are involved.

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