Thursday, March 5, 2009

An Anything-You-Please, Not Thelma and Louse White House Health Care Summit

The Disease Management Care Blog sat through the C-SPAN health policy video of one of today’s White House Health Care Summit ‘conversation’ break out sessions. There was something for everyone here, and everyone certainly had something to say. The session heard about planned parenthood, low income women, cancer prevention, nurse-patient staffing ratios, the public plan option, research, hospitals, obesity, bankruptcy, coverage doesn’t equal access, shortage of providers in rural settings, food safety, nurse workforce issues, centers of excellence, drug reimportation, interoperable health information systems, end of life care, obstetrical units, pre-exisiting conditions, single payer system, public reporting, Medicare Part D, mandatory coverage, malpractice reform, long-term disabilities, community-based services, the Latino community, immigration reform, stem cell research and comparative effectiveness.

The healthcare reform quote of the day was that things are so dire, it’s not a Harry and Louise moment, but a Thelma and Louise we're gonna drive-off-the-cliff moment. The DMCB thinks it was more like a narrow interest, soapboxy never waste a crisis, anything you please moment.

But it was a comment about employer-based insurance that caught the DMCB’s ear.

General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, Green Giant veggies, Progresso soups, Pillsbury bakery products and Yoplait yogurt has 18,000 U.S. employees in multiple States. Its CEO, Ken Powell, was at the Summit and pointed out that his company and the rest of the Business Roundtable wants to preserve the ability of employers like General Mills to offer health insurance for two reasons: 1) it helps them recruit and retain skilled employees and 2) they’re really good at it.

In addition to a highly competitive health insurance plan with a manageable cost trend, Mr. Powell pointed out General Mills has tobacco cessation and weight loss programs, diabetes coaching programs, pharmacists to help persons understand their medications and access to other venture-capitalist funded, multi-employer supported chronic condition care programs. He hopes healthcare reform allows his and other companies to continue to leverage this strategic advantage when it comes to maximizing its human capital.

The DMCB hopes so too. In a prior post, the DMCB reviewed a highly informative report that pointed out that the distribution of ‘best practices’ from high performing systems, 7-day-a-week hospitals, the right kind of health information technology, controlling admissions, optimizing discharges and other proven strategies across the United States can save billions of dollars. The additional General Mills option, unlike the swirl of other narrow interest group issues listed above, is in the mainstream of health care, it deals with the twin challenges of cost and quality and is within legislative reach this year

The DMCB recommends the reformists listen closely to employers like General Mills. Promotion of their approach nationwide is a key consideration in wellness, prevention and care of populations with chronic conditions.

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