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Insurers, providers attacking rising health care costs in NC

Posted October 9, 2012

— Health insurance is among the fastest-growing costs of doing business, and companies large and small are trying to figure out how to manage and control those costs.

About 200 business leaders gathered in Chapel Hill on Tuesday for a health care summit meeting, sponsored by the North Carolina Chamber, to hear about what hospitals, doctors and insurance providers are doing to help lower the cost of health care.

A recent study of employer-sponsored health benefits by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average premium for single coverage had increased 3 percent from 2011 to 2012, while family coverage had risen an average of 4 percent.

Over the past decade, the average premium for family coverage has almost doubled, the study found.

“As a country, we spend more on health care than what the entire country of France spends on everything,” said Brad Wilson, chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, the state's largest health insurer. "Our health care system is broken and unsustainable. We can't sit by and let that continue."

Wilson said 30 percent of medical spending is "waste and redundancy," noting that one in five medical claims that come into Blue Cross, totaling $2.4 billion, have to do with obesity and related conditions, such as diabetes.

Wellness programs are a major effort for the company, he said.

"We've got to do something, and we've got to do something now," he said. “You need to demand a system that focuses on quality, instead of quantity, and pays for healthy outcomes.”

Health care generic Business leaders brainstorm to cut health care costs

Hospitals statewide are integrating systems to become more efficient, said Hugh Tilson, senior vice president of the North Carolina Hospital Association.

"We're trying to take cost out while still maintaining quality of care," Tilson said.

To try to keep people from going to the hospital unless absolutely necessary, he said, hospitals are expanding community care programs in which doctors help people manage chronic health conditions.

Many of the efforts are being driven by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which will take full effect in 2014.

The big question for employers is how to juggle the costs of offering health insurance. Many are weighing new options under the health reform law, such as state-run or federal health insurance exchanges, where employees can purchase their own coverage.

"You see a lot of small businesses thinking they might opt out of the system and go to an exchange, but I think what most businesses are looking for is how can they make that part of the business predictable," said Lew Ebert, president and chief executive of the North Carolina Chamber.

The tight presidential race and the prospect of Republican Mitt Romney pushing for a repeal of the health care reform law if elected only adds to the uncertainty, officials said.

Still, they said, they are proceeding with changes they see as critically to their survival.

"We're not waiting. We're moving forward anyway," Tilson said.



12 Comments

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  • Qwerty27807 Oct 10, 2012

    Providers are the problem. Everyone wants to blame insurers, but take a close look at your bill, and see how much fat and waste there is.

  • Working4aLiving Oct 10, 2012

    ObamaCare of course is simply driving up the cost and mainly is doing cost transference onto the backs of people that actually PAY for their own health insurance. Seniors, he frankly is gutting them...whatelseisnew

    Seems the only folks that want the Obammacare are the ones that are already using up the system. Those of us that work and pay for insurance are always going to be covering the cost of those that won't pay, don't pay or just won't work. Still upsets me when I see someone with nicely done fake finger nails in the check out line at a store texting or talking away on their IPhone and are paying with a Food Stamp card. Sorry folks, I shouldn't pay for everything for you....get a life...get a job and carry your own load!

  • WooHoo2You Oct 9, 2012

    Wait, a 3 and 4 percent rise in cost since Romneycare / Obamacare as compared to the DOUBLE DIGIT increases of prior years.....oh what oh what could be the reason ;)

  • whatelseisnew Oct 9, 2012

    "national health plan is needed-to level the playing board so everyone pays the same, is charged the same etc and perhaps costs might come down or even just level off."

    A national plan would either result in less CARE available or price rises that are even more out of control. Government intrusion has created the following messes: Housing inflation that burst, college education costs that will burst at some point; health care and health insurance costs exploding. Government keeps throwing more and more money at these things and surprise surprise, the costs keep rising. Now government wants to intrude even deeper into ENERGY costs than they already are doing. Guess what is going to happen there. I have inexpensive insurance, mainly because I am not going to buy insurance that pays for everything. I just want insurance that will handle the BIG costs, not the everyday doctor visit that most of us can actually pay for. Instead Government is taking it in the complete wrong direction.

  • whatelseisnew Oct 9, 2012

    joesph its the people called the doctors and hospitals that are jacking up the cost of healthcare because these doctors are making a killing off of insurance companies and in order for insurance companies to get their money back they have to jack up the prices of insurance!"

    Nope the problem is Government. It caused the problem and all ObamaCare does is make the same problems worse than ever. Just as Government intrusion has driven up the cost of College, they have driven up health care costs. Once you remove the need to compete from something, the prices just rise.
    Do you know anyone that shops around for prices on treatment? Not talking emergency stuff, for example, the price of an office visit, the price of a physical, the price of a mammogram. Most people do not bother, because they are either paying very little out of pocket or are paying nothing at all. So the prices go up, thus insurance cost must rise and the truly foolish people blame the insurance companies and the provide

  • rachel Oct 9, 2012

    costs are being shifted constantly-those that are privately insured are paying increasing percentages of the costs of the uninsured-for instance, Medicare reduces the amount they pay to providers every year, Medicaid pays a ridiculously small amount to providers-much less then what it actually costs to provide the services-the illegal, uninsured pay nothing when they use services-so the folks in the middle who pay premiums, co pays, deductibles etc are paying way over what it costs to receives services so that hospitals, doctors, dme etc can recoup some of the money they lose by treating the others-which is one of the reasons there is some push and some justification that a national health plan is needed-to level the playing board so everyone pays the same, is charged the same etc and perhaps costs might come down or even just level off.

  • fouroaksboys Oct 9, 2012

    joesph its the people called the doctors and hospitals that are jacking up the cost of healthcare because these doctors are making a killing off of insurance companies and in order for insurance companies to get their money back they have to jack up the prices of insurance!

  • No Party Affiliate Oct 9, 2012

    AS someone who worked in health care system I saw wide spread abuse. 75% of the costs can be cut if the system is digitized and more Doctors are hired.
    Keeping fewer Doctors in a hospital keeps prices higher. Administrative costs are growing while the digital age is here. Run the hospital like a assembly line with more electronics and we will see a cheaper system.
    Americans also have to eat and exercise more to help.

    You can blame Obama but the system is currently not working and nothing is being done to change it. I do like the fact that Obamacare is changing the current system. Now we have to gut it and reorganize the hospitals.

  • corey3rd Oct 9, 2012

    rising 3 and 4 percent? That's after your coverage had decreased 20 percent and your deductible has risen $5K.

  • whatelseisnew Oct 9, 2012

    "enough said... with all the hoopla of this wonderful insurance america will have not one iota was put into the thought of rising health care costs. they did nothing to bring down costs..or find out even why costs are rising so quickly--someone is making a killing off healthcare-- so who is it?"

    What is driving the cost primarily is Government intrusion, Medicaid and Medicare. Next the Government forced providers to provide treatment to people that can not pay. That costs gets passed along. Next we still open borders. Welcome new medicaid folks and new nonpayers. Lastly people FOOLISHLY want insurance to cover EVERYTHING. Thus they have no incentive to look for less costly care nor to question anything a Doctor might tell them to do. ObamaCare of course is simply driving up the cost and mainly is doing cost transference onto the backs of people that actually PAY for their own health insurance. Seniors, he frankly is gutting them.

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