Health Care

Health care work earns coalition recognition

Local efforts to corral health care costs and improve effectiveness have earned recognition from a national health care think tank.

The Wichita Business Coalition on Health Care, formed in 2008, is an alliance of employers, providers and others in the health care insurance industry. It has more than 40 members representing more than 60,000 people.

Cyndy Nayer, CEO and co-founder of the Center for Health Value Innovation, on Tuesday awarded the group the John J. Mahoney M.D. Award for Community Health Value Innovation.

Nayer will continue to work with the coalition. Her basic message is that better health care can be less expensive for employers, who continue to struggle with huge insurance premium increases.

An effective health care system is all about getting more employees checked early, finding conditions that lead to more serious problems and making sure they get effective care early.

Every member of the health care system must cooperate, she said. Right now, they operate independently, each trying to minimize cost or maximize benefits — and the end result creates incentives that make the system ineffective and expensive.

For instance, she said, even employees with health insurance often choose not to get checkups because of high co-pays. Having undiagnosed diabetics on staff doesn't help a company. They'll be less productive, off work more often and, eventually, involved in expensive treatment.

" (Employers) are writing checks for millions of dollars and they are not getting a healthier work force back," she said.

Companies typically don't want to get involved in their employees' health care, said Ron Whiting, executive director of the coalition.

"It requires a level of engagement," he said. "And that's a tough message for employers."

Employees, health care providers and others in the system also must undergo a culture change, Whiting said. Doctors, for instance, must manage overall patient health, rather than simply reacting to a patient complaint — and be paid accordingly.

And, of course, Nayer said, employees must do better in embracing the changes needed to improve their health. This will be easier, she said, once everybody's incentives are better aligned.