April 2, 2002
Council: To contain health costs, businesses can influence their own communities
Businesses in New York State concerned about how actions in Albany drive up New York's health-care costs can focus on some local tactics to contain health costs, according to The Business Council's health-care advocate.
"Rather than throw up our hands over state policies that can inflate costs, businesses can roll up their sleeves and pursue local strategies for shaping their own destinies," Elliott Shaw, director of government affairs for The Business Council and its health-policy specialist, told the Manufacturers' Association of Central New York (MACNY) March 27.
Many measures show that New York's health-care performance is no better than "the middle of the pack nationally," Shaw said. Nonetheless, employers here bear higher costs than those in other states in many areas, including:
- Higher health insurance premiums for workers.
- High costs related to excess hospital beds in many communities.
- Government mandates that require insurance to cover such things as chiropractic visits and social work
- Longer lengths of stay for all categories of patients, resulting in dramatically higher costs.
- More physicians per capita than average and more resident physicians per capita than any other state.
- A unique billion-dollar tax on insurance to support the training of unneeded physicians and bad debt.
"There's no end in sight for private insurance taxes, and special interest groups continue to push for more state imposed mandates and other laws that would increase cost," Shaw said. "These include new mandates that would cover infertility treatments, expanded mental health services, alternative medicine, and contraceptives."
In addition to making their voices heard in Albany, business leaders must advocate cost-containment in their own communities, Shaw said.
For example, business leaders who serve on hospital boards should not limit that work to particular institutional interests, but should also take a broad view of health-care costs and how they can be contained, Shaw said. Hospitals should be encouraged to share services, such as medical laboratory procedures, when that can contain costs for participating institutions.
Shaw said business leaders can also:
- Use their community clout to promote advances in patient safety.
- Urge local hospitals to develop and use benchmarks that measure quality and cost, and encourage hospitals to embrace both local and statewide accountability initiatives.
- Work with hospitals and other health-care providers to produce health report cards that measure the status of community health.
- Discourage the siting of redundant specialized care centers in more than one regional hospital and instead support efforts to create regional "Centers for Excellence" to improve both the quality and efficiency of care.
"There are growing signs of cost-containment innovations coming from the private sector, but they will need the support of many more businesses and business leaders," Shaw said.