June 28--NEENAH -- Attendees at Wednesday's Fox Valley Health Policy Summit hoping for insight on what the Supreme Court will do with national health care reform today did not get their wish.
A panel including Dan Neufelder, CEO of Menasha-based Affinity Health System; Dr. Dean Gruner, CEO of ThedaCare in Appleton; and State Rep. Kevin Petersen, R-Waupaca, instead focused their remarks and what is being done regionally to control health care costs.
Gruner said regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court does, no one will have answers immediately and people who are sick will still need treatment. The panel expects the court's ruling only will spark more debate.
"Regardless of the court's decision, it's our job to keep people healthy and deliver value," Gruner said Wednesday in his remarks before more than 100 Fox Cities area professionals at the Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel. The event was presented by the Wisconsin Association of Health Underwriters and the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
Gruner said nationally people want quality care at low cost. But how to achieve that is debatable.
Gruner said how health providers are paid must change. Those who are providing good quality at low cost, should see some benefit.
However, compensation now is based on volume, so if a health care organization finds efficiencies, it translates to less government support, he said.
"We've worked hard to get waste out of our system," he said. "We're working hard to do the right thing, but not getting rewarded for it."
Neufelder said another approach is getting people to change lifestyles. Healthier people generally don't utilize their health insurance and require less medical attention, which leads to lower costs.
"The choices we make in our lives have more impact on the state of our health," Neufelder said.
Affinity and ThedaCare, which combined employ more than 10,000 people across northeast Wisconsin, are doing what they can to encourage employees to adopt healthier lifestyles.
Neufelder said Affinity's Network Health, which provides health insurance, in 2008 launched Millennium, which offers assorted wellness programs.
He said about 20 regional employers, representing about 24,000 Network Health members, participate in the Millennium program. These participating businesses have seen average savings of $400 per member.
Neufelder said investment in wellness will yield other benefits besides reduction in health insurance costs.
"People who are healthy will have a better quality of life and they will be more productive at work," he said.
Petersen said expecting government to pay more for health coverage for the uninsured or those who cannot afford coverage is not the way.
Gov. Scott Walker, an opponent to President Barack Obama's health care plan, has said the state would not begin setting up its health exchange required by the federal law until the Supreme Court made its ruling. The exchange is a system, which will be managed by each state, where people can buy health insurance eligible for federal subsidies.
"The state needs to be involved less and it should be left to the providers and insurers," he said. "The state cannot keep promising what it can't pay for. What we need to do is sit down with our partners."
-- Larry Avila: 920-993-1000, ext. 292, or email@example.com; on Twitter @LarryAvila
(c)2012 The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wis.)
Visit The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wis.) at www.postcrescent.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services