Rein in health-care costs, speakers at Healthcare Summit in Concord say

Most speakers at the recent 2014 Healthcare Summit in Concord discussed ways to make health care more efficient, both in services to patients and by reining in rising costs.

The Nov. 6 summit at Great Wolf Lodge was sponsored by the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce.

More than 80 community and business leaders heard seven local health-care experts’ views on the nation’s evolving health-care system and its economic implications for the region. They discussed topics from managing costs to preventive health efforts.

The recurrent theme for most of the seven speakers was that rising health-care costs have a negative effect on the business community.

The obstacles to overcome are many and, most often, complex, they said.

Health care is a multi-billion-dollar industry in North Carolina, responsible for $60 billion, or 18 percent, of the Gross State Product, according to the N.C. Chamber and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Medicaid alone accounts for $10 billion of the state’s health-care economy.

At the same time, employers are feeling the pinch as they search to provide affordable health-care benefits to their employees that won’t tear into their bottom line.

Parts of the problem involve solving the plight of the uninsured – one reason for rising private insurance prices – and fixing flaws in the management of Medicaid.

Goals such as reducing unnecessary inpatient care for Medicaid recipients will help cut the costs passed on to taxpayers, speakers said.

“When we save money, it doesn’t go to shareholders somewhere else. It goes back into the tax base and goes back into the community,” said Dr. Allen Dobson, president and CEO of Community Care Plan of North Carolina.

Lower health-care costs also would entice more businesses to set up shop in the region, Dobson told the audience.

“It's as good as tax rebates and incentives to bring businesses,” he said.

But it’s not just Medicaid that needs to be managed better to reduce costs, said one expert. The health-care system as a whole needs to cut wasteful spending.

According to the Institute of Medicine, 30 cents of every dollar spent in the nation’s health-care system is squandered on unnecessary treatments and deceptive administrative paperwork, adding up to $750 billion each year.

“There’s opportunity, without sacrificing quality and without sacrificing access, to essentially make these changes to use our resources more effectively,” said Peter Chauncey, president of Carolinas Market for Aetna.

Chauncey called for more collaboration among the health-care system’s key players.

“The key is to work together in such a way that the increase in medical care costs could be contained by doing a better job of delivering the services – right here, at the right time and right place,” he said. “And that takes being involved in a different way and with different support.”

Navigating through the nation’s evolving health-care system is going to take a group effort, Dobson said.

“If we don’t collaborate, we’re not going to get a handle on health-care costs,” he said. “We need the business community to weigh in on this, because it’s important to you, and it’s important to your local economy.”