As the health care reform discussion continues, several CEOs from various companies have written editorials outlining their thoughts on what to include in the debate and where the focus should be in improving health care coverage and cost reductions. This article highlights three CEO perspectives.

  • Paul Otellini, Chief Executive Officer, Intel
  • Steven A. Burd, CEO, Safeway, Inc. , and founder of the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform.
  • John Mackey, Co-Founder and CEO, Whole Foods Market Inc.

From the three editorials, the following themes emerge:

  • Innovation can change the health care model. Other industries have utilized technology to create a shift in the way customers received services and manage their daily lives. Technology can be applied to health care to change delivery models, provide access to and exchange of pertinent information, and enhance personal control of one’s health.
  • Individual responsibility needs to be an important element in health care reform. The basics need to be present: eat right, exercise regularly, manage your well-being, etc.
  • Focus on the root causes, address core issues, and implement new care delivery models to overcome the health care reform challenge. There are lessons that can be learned from other industries (e.g., auto insurance, financial), so apply them to the health care reform discussion. Put another way, do not be afraid of promoting new models of care delivery. Adding on to an outdated model will not get us to where we need to be for the long term.

An overview of the three perspectives is outlined below. Reading each view point in its entirety is highly recommended.

How Safeway Is Cutting Health-Care Costs, Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2009. A few statements from Steven A. Burd’s approach to health care:

  • "At Safeway we believe that well-designed health-care reform, utilizing market-based solutions, can ultimately reduce our nation's health-care bill by 40%. The key to achieving these savings is health-care plans that reward healthy behavior. As a self-insured employer, Safeway designed just such a plan in 2005 and has made continuous improvements each year. The results have been remarkable. During this four-year period, we have kept our per capita health-care costs flat (that includes both the employee and the employer portion), while most American companies' costs have increased 38% over the same four years."
  • "… the auto-insurance industry has long recognized the role of personal responsibility. As a result, bad behaviors (like speeding, tickets for failure to follow the rules of the road, and frequency of accidents) are considered when establishing insurance premiums. Bad driver premiums are not subsidized by the good driver premiums."
  • "At Safeway, we are building a culture of health and fitness. The numbers speak for themselves. Our obesity and smoking rates are roughly 70% of the national average and our health-care costs for four years have been held constant. When surveyed, 78% of our employees rated our plan good, very good or excellent. In addition, 76% asked for more financial incentives to reward healthy behaviors. We have heard from dozens of employees who lost weight, lowered their blood-pressure and cholesterol levels, and are enjoying better health because of this program."
  • "By our calculation, if the nation had adopted our approach in 2005, the nation's direct health-care bill would be $550 billion less than it is today. This is almost four times the $150 billion that most experts estimate to be the cost of covering today's 47 million uninsured. The implication is that we can achieve health-care reform with universal coverage and declining per capita health-care costs."

Making Health Care Personal, Politico, July 27, 2009. Key points from Paul Otellini ‘s editorial:

  • "We are mired in the past and need to innovate beyond a centralized, expert-driven medical model to distributed, personal health at home."
  • "Innovations in computing and communications have reformed our relationships and roles in almost every institution other than health care. Today, we rarely travel to the marble-columned bank at the center of town, but instead access a wide array of personal financial services across many locations and our homes. We have a more personal, engaged and proactive role in the management of our own finances — with experts who can help from both bricks-and-mortar and online locations in our communities. So, too, we must invent and invest in a distributed model of personal health."
  • "Personal health is about shifting the focus from institution to individual and hospital to home."
  • "We require a cultural reformation — a new social covenant in which each of us becomes more informed, engaged and proactive about our health, wellness and care. True cost savings and quality improvements in health care will come from providing incentives for — and using modern technologies to enable — better prevention, early detection, self-care, chronic disease management and adherence to care plans that custom-fit our personal lives."
  • "Aiming for a home-centric personal health vision — and designing our policies, expectations and infrastructure so that we can continuously innovate health care — will help achieve the reformation we need."

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare, Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2009. Highlights from John Mackey’s editorial:

  • "While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment."
  • "Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health. This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health."
  • "Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat. We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age."
  • "Health-care reform is very important. Whatever reforms are enacted it is essential that they be financially responsible, and that we have the freedom to choose doctors and the health-care services that best suit our own unique set of lifestyle choices. We are all responsible for our own lives and our own health. We should take that responsibility very seriously and use our freedom to make wise lifestyle choices that will protect our health. Doing so will enrich our lives and will help create a vibrant and sustainable American society."
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