How Corporate America Can Benefit from a More Sustainable Healthcare System

posted by Tara Knight

I am posting on behalf of Robert Ludke, Managing Director Public Strategies, Inc. who is contributed this posting to ResponsAbility

When people refer to “sustainability,” it is often in the context of a company seeking to improve its bottom line and the environment by doing things like using less water and becoming more energy efficient. Yet, the most unsustainable cost facing nearly every company across the world is healthcare.

The challenge of increasing healthcare costs is particularly problematic in the United States – one of the few countries in the world where employer-funded coverage is the mainstay of the insurance system and universal coverage is not guaranteed. Case in point: for American companies, healthcare coverage is the most expensive benefit paid by employers.

Despite all the flaws in the current system – including the high cost of healthcare, the inefficient delivery of care and the fact that more than 50 million Americans lack coverage – there is little likelihood of fundamental change.

This means nearly every one of our U.S.-based clients is facing a challenge. They are largely stuck in the general confines of the current system, with its many shortcomings, not the least of which is an unsustainable cost trajectory.

Some companies are seeking to address that challenge by encouraging their employees to live healthier and more responsible lives in which a greater emphasis is placed on preventive care. While some incremental success has been achieved in encouraging people to lead healthier lives and increasing access to preventive healthcare, such efforts will not produce savings sufficient enough to bend the so-called “cost curve” to the point where there is a reduction in the amount of money spent on healthcare.

In order to bend the cost curve, a fundamental shift in how society manages healthcare is needed. While that challenge is daunting, for a significant number of our clients, it presents an opportunity not only to benefit their bottom line but also to improve their reputation as responsible employers committed to a healthier, more sustainable society.

In particular, many of our largest clients have the ability to use the purchasing power they gain from the number of employees they cover with health insurance to either insist on changes to how care is delivered to their employees or to serve as a useful resource to policymakers and thought leaders who are working to improve health outcomes at a lower cost.

If the private sector wants to have a more effective voice in how the cost of healthcare can be reduced while improving the outcomes of that care, it needs to engage in and shape the public debate. Opportunities abound for points of interaction with the health policy community, to launch pilot projects to develop and implement best practices, and for leading companies to be held out to the public as thought leaders in developing and implementing policies to improve the lives of their employees and the broader public.

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