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VOL. 126 | NO. 138 | Monday, July 18, 2011

Health Care Seminar Tackles Tough Issues

By Aisling Maki

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The topic was contentious, but the discourse remained civil Thursday, July 14, during The Daily News’ Healthcare Reform Seminar, the third in a series of six seminars hosted by the newspaper this year.

Held in the auditorium of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 1934 Poplar Ave., the seminar focused on critical business issues related to the recently passed federal health care reform plan and a look at how the legislation will impact businesses large and small, as well as individuals.

Phillip Johnson, partner with Argyle Benefits Consultants LLC and chartered life underwriter and certified employee benefits specialist, delivered the event’s keynote address.

“This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue,” Johnson said to the crowd of business, health care and community leaders. “This is an issue that we all face, and for the most part, we all enjoy the benefits of the health care system that we have in this country.”

Johnson said that although health care costs continue to rise, it’s not a new trend. Costs associated with health care have, on average, increased about 10 percent each decade over the last 50 years.

Health care, which in the 1960s represented about 5 percent of the gross domestic product, today represents upward of 20 percent of the country’s GDP.

The average employee health care cost in Tennessee, Johnson said, now amounts to $7,544, and he maintains there is a correlation between reform and current increases.

“Rate increases and changes that are taking place in 2011 are absolutely affected by health care reform legislation,” said Johnson, adding that there were many new provisions associated with health care reform, such as expanded dependent coverage and preventative care, that insurance companies were required to include in renewals.

Johnson touched on a range of topics, including the effects of cost on businesses, employees and individuals; changes in employer contributions; penalties associated with discriminatory plans and failures to comply; future public health insurance exchanges; and healthy lifestyle incentives and employee wellness programs.

A panel discussion and question-and-answer session followed, featuring panelists David Elliott, vice president of managed care for Baptist Memorial Health Care and CEO of Baptist Health Services Group; James Terwilliger, managing director of Equity Capital Markets for investment banking firm Duncan-Williams Inc.; and Dr. Scott Morris, founder and executive director of the Memphis-based Church Health Center, the largest faith-based clinic for the working poor in the United States.

From a hospital administrator’s perspective, Elliott spoke about the movement toward clinical integration, “when hospitals, physicians and other health care providers have become clinically integrated to deliver better care,” he said.

“Part of the solution there, if you bring health care providers together – physicians, hospitals – and you do clinically integrate them, then you achieve savings because everyone doesn’t do their individual tests.”

Terwilliger, who holds a master’s degree in public health policy from Yale University, said there’s currently a great deal of fear and uncertainty surrounding health care investing, which could ultimately have a long-term negative effect on the pipeline of innovation and new discoveries in treatment.

“If I have a doctor with a great idea for an orthopedic implant, especially here in Memphis, which is a great orthopedic town, the venture capital money doesn’t want to come in,” he said. “The private equity money is looking for mature, established, cheap businesses with good cash flow, and that’s where they’re going.”

Morris, a Methodist minister and one of the city’s most well-known physicians, spoke about the importance of focusing on true health instead of on costly technology, and improving the overall quality of life culturally, on an individual and grassroots level.

Morris said there’s no doubt the U.S. needs a redesign of the health care system, but he doesn’t believe it will come from Washington; it must, he said, happen at the local level.

“Only 10 percent of what your health means has to do with doctors and hospitals and everything else; 90 percent of whether or not you’re healthy is about other stuff,” he said. “The biggest part of it has to do with your behavior and things brought into your environment, and socially. Those are all things we can actually change; they’re also things that are really cheap to deal with.”

The Daily News’ Healthcare Reform Seminar was cosponsored by OrthoMemphis and Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens and Cannada PLLC.

The next seminar in The Daily News series, which will focus on social media, will take place Sept. 15 at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

PROPERTY SALES 101 603 9,602
MORTGAGES 92 538 10,616
BUILDING PERMITS 215 1,282 20,958
BANKRUPTCIES 51 408 6,108