Collaboration May Be the Key to Fixing Rising Costs of Healthcare

Five experts in the field of healthcare discussed the issues, complexities, and promise of healthcare in Westchester during a morning panel last week.

​Four experts from the field of healthcare discussed the problems of, and potential remedies to, healthcare costs in the county during the Westchester County Association’s All-Access Healthcare Series at the Doubletree Hilton in Tarrytown on April 11. Over the course of the nearly two hour panel moderated by Journal News reporter David Robinson, the discussion touched on the effect of healthcare on the nation’s GDP, the interplay between healthcare providers and consumers, and issues with insurance coverage.

The panel consisted of Kevin Dahill, president and CEO of the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council and the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association; Eric Linzer, president and CEO of the New York Health Plan Association; Charles Rothberg, MD, President of the Medical Society of the State of New York; and human resource expert Mary Jo Jacobs.

Dahill kicked off the event pointing to a recent study, noting that “50% of healthcare costs are due to the delivery system and 50% are driven by sociological factors, so whatever we do in the healthcare delivery system to try to become more efficient, try to save money, try to reduce hospitalization, we are only dealing with 50% of the problem,” he said. “And if we don’t begin to consider and address the other 50% we aren’t going to get where we need to.” Dahill used the example of a patient who is treated for an illness but then returns to an apartment filled with mold. “I would argue it is a societal issue that needs to be addressed,” he added.

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Rothberg agreed “I urge you to take broader view of our policy decisions and how defective policies have led us to where we are today,” said Rothberg. “It is almost like playing whack-a-mole, we fix one little thing and it exposes three other defects — and part of it, I think, relates to lack of transparency between the various healthcare stakeholders.”

“Everybody needs to think a little differently about how we can get at underlying healthcare costs,” noted Linzer later in the event. “The fact that premiums are inextricably linked to rising healthcare costs becomes a challenge that we all need to address.”

Jacobs felt larger organizations could effect positive change in terms of both costs and outcomes for health providers. “The reality is that the larger your organization and the more people you are covering with healthcare, the more transparency you can achieve and the more power you have in the marketplace to do something about your costs,” said Jacobs. Jacobs added that companies like Cigna, Aetna, and Blue Cross Blue Shield can make a major difference regarding rebates and the cost of specialty medication, which, she noted, has grown from 1% of the overall prescription spend to what is projected to be more than 44% by 2020.

In comments to 914INC., William Mooney, President and CEO of the Westchester County Association, felt the breakfast was enlightening affair. “I think [the panel] clearly identified how broken the system is with respect to healthcare, and the remedies are much more complex than anyone can imagine,” he said. “They range from correcting the imbalance between the insurance providers and the healthcare system itself to a single-payer system. I think one of the things that we are learning too, is that there is not a lot of collaboration between all the players, and the more collaboration the further we will be along the road trying to cure some of these problems. The last thing I would say is that the government plays too much of a role here and they are impairing the system.”

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