Health Care

Speaker: Employers must drive health care

Andrew Webber says he doesn't have the answers to health care, even though that's what he'll be speaking about next week.

"Health and health care is all local," said Webber, president of the National Business Coalition on Health.

"Even with the passage of health care reform, don't think Washington has answers for you. It all plays out in local communities. That's where the energy, leadership, innovation and execution need to come from."

Webber is one of the keynote speakers for the Sedgwick County Health Care Roundtable on Wednesday. It's a forum that brings together business, health care, insurance and other leaders.

As the purchasers of health care, employers "have got to be leaders, have got to be change agents," Webber said by phone. But when he talks to CEOs, "their response typically is that 'You're asking a lot, and maybe too much.'... At the end of the day, if employers don't stand up, then who will?"

Employers must take the lead, he said, "and I think that's tough for employers to hear, given all the issues on their table."

Webber's topic for the roundtable is "The Opportunities Within Health Care Reform." Buried within the 3,000 pages of the Affordable Care Act "is a lot of good stuff" about improving the health care system and population health, he said.

Among the benefits he sees are comparative effectiveness research and better data analysis that can help inform and drive change.

Data can help improve the health of a community, he said, but the solutions for Wichita won't look like the solutions for a city in South Carolina or Minnesota because disease rates, health care utilization rates and cultures are different.

Cost containment must include building a more efficient, high-value health care system that focuses on health promotion, primary care and chronic disease management "rather than seeing 80 or 90 percent of the dollars go to treat" acute illnesses, he said.

Webber said changes should include physician incentives to emphasize primary care and healthier outcomes, along with consumer incentives to select high-value providers and healthier lifestyles.

Instead, "We've got misaligned incentives that drive volumes of services," he said.

As the federal government makes changes in the way Medicare pays for hospital stays, he said, local communities that piggyback on those efforts could "have a dramatic impact on behavior and in creating... more positive incentives."

Webber will be joined at the roundtable by Kent Seltman, senior marketing consultant at Mayo Clinic before his retirement in 2008 and co-author of "Management Lessons From Mayo Clinic," and local speakers.