Leaders of some of the Triangle’s largest health care organizations met Tuesday to discuss the impact of the federal health care reform law as the U.S. Supreme Court gets ready to deliver its verdicts on the law’s various provisions.

Triangle Buisness Journal Health Care Reform Symposium
Small business owners attended a symposium hosted by the Triangle Business Journal to learn how the upcoming Supreme Court decision will change the health care world.

By: Kelsey Tsipis

A ballroom at the North Ridge Country Club was filled with hundreds of small business owners looking to get some idea of what the health insurance world would look like in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling. Panelists representing hospitals, health insurers and regulators discussed how the Supreme Court ruling would affect local businesses, at a symposium sponsored by the Triangle Business Journal.

No matter what the Supreme Court decision is, the state will need to continue to be involved in health care reform, said Doug Vinsel, the president of Duke Raleigh Hospital.

“I’m not necessarily an advocate of the Affordable Care Act,” said Vinsel. “It doesn’t address tort reform or end-of-life care. But it’s a place to start and a foundation to work from.”

Vinsel said trying to create more of a culture of health and taking personal responsibility for health care is a huge theme at DRH and throughout the Duke medical system.

Vinsel found agreement from traditional rivals UNC Healthcare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

“We simply cannot afford it the way it is now,” said Dr. Don Bradley, the Chief Medical Officer of BCBSNC. “We’re not doing what we need to do.”

Bradley told the audience that it’s important for employers to stay engaged in the health care reform debate, make better use of health care data, and commit to the health and wellness of employees.

After the presentation Bradley described how BCBSNC is incentivizing employees to be healthier.  For example, if an employee’s BMI is above 28, a health insurance premium refund of $250 will go away unless they lose 5 percent of their body weight, or show they’re in a weight loss program.

The TBJ Health Care Reform Symposium
(From left) Jason Debruyn, TBJ healthcare reporter and moderator of the symposium, Rick Kelly of Progressive Benefit Solutions and Jeff Miller, the CEO of NC Health Information Exchange.

Panelists also stressed the importance of collaboration between medical providers to reduce the cost of health care in North Carolina, and the U.S. as a whole.

Rick Kelly, from Progressive Benefit Solutions, a company that helps employers manage their worker benefits, said it’s now necessary to take a global holistic view to reform the health care industry without shifting the cost to employees.

“For a lot of companies in in the Triangle that have global employees, we’re now seeing movement to manage health care costs on a global scale,” said Kelly. “So, while healthcare is local, the measurement and performance needs to be measured against what’s happening worldwide.”

Katherine Anne Hamlin, a representative of The Hamlin Companies, attended the symposium to get ideas on how to drop insurance costs for her company’s 165 employees. The roofing company currently has a plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“I attended the event because I wanted to hear if there were any different ideas about coping with the rising health care costs,” said Hamlin. “I would have loved to hear what comprises a successful wellness program. We have been presented with many wellness programs from the expensive to the minimal cost, but haven’t really seen any evidence of a program that produces results.”

Hamlin said their company has started by incentivizing employees to get their annual physical but have not seen widespread results.

“Getting people to make lifestyle changes is a hard thing to do, and we really would like to know what has worked for other employers,” said Hamlin. “I think what BCBSNC and the health care systems are trying to do is good, but I do think they should also get those of us who purchase group insurance involved as well.”

The Supreme Court has signaled that it will rule on the Affordable Care Act, but the panelists seemed to agree that whether it is or isn’t constitutional doesn’t make a much of a difference in how we prepare for the future because something has to change.

“How we get it done changes with the ruling,” said Bradley. “What we need to get done stays the same.”

Updated June 21, 2012

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