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VOL. 132 | NO. 100 | Friday, May 19, 2017

Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway

Unhealthy Motives

By Dan Conaway

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WE DON’T CARE ABOUT HEALTH CARE. WE CARE ABOUT INSURANCE. Like casinos, the insurance business is a bet, you know, like a roll of the dice. And like casinos, the house always wins. An army of actuaries hedges every bet. If you buy life insurance, they’re going to charge you enough to make money before you die. They win. If you buy health insurance, they’re going to charge you enough to make money if you get sick. They win.

Healthy people win. Sick people lose. It’s a business.

That’s pretty much the way House Speaker Paul Ryan put it when justifying the passage of a health care bill that only benefits the well-off at the expense of everybody else.

“That’s the way insurance is priced,” he said, when asked about charging older people five times more than younger people and gutting Medicaid because it loses money caring for the poor.

He might as well have said that Congress works for the insurance industry. If you’re sick or poor, you’re on your own. Ask an actuary; sick or poor is bad business.

Some businesses fight back, refusing to accept that making money for insurance companies is part of their core business – or our nation’s – while caring for and about everyone in a company is good business for them – and our nation.

My friend Jay Martin founded Juice Plus+, a company that squeezes concentrates from 30 fruits, vegetables and grains into powder and puts an acre’s worth of garden into a tower on an apartment balcony. He knows a bit about innovation and a good idea when he hears one. He heard one a few years ago.

One of his distributors introduced him to Harris Rosen of Rosen Hotels, a major player in the hotel business and number two behind Disney in Orlando with 4,500 employees. Seems he’d had it with his insurance cost, so he got rid of it – not the insurance company, the industry. He hired his own doctors, set up his own specialist network, and encouraged employees to take personal control of their health.

In three years, he cut his insurance cost from $45 million to $15 million with the same number of employees, and watched morale go up as employees paid less and missed workdays dropped.

Jay came back to his headquarters in Collierville inspired. With 400 employees and several state lines to deal with, the Rosen model doesn’t apply, but the concept does.

Juice Plus+ now has its own doctor and nurse practitioner, a clinic and a gym, and healthy meals are served. Cooking and health education classes are provided and incentives for healthy living are offered.

And insurance cost has lost a ton of weight.

The company mission is “inspiring healthy living around the world,” so doing that at work is their job.

Doing that in this country should be our job, not driven by the insurance industry and the need for profit, but driven by innovation in health care and the needs of our citizens.

That pays off for everybody.

I’m a Memphian, and it’s time to change the odds.

Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

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