Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Real Reform In Healthcare

“We want our employees to spend their time on real issues,” said Charlie Salter, VP of Benefits at ConAgra. He means it. Charlie and ConAgra have built their healthcare benefits around some simple concepts that are yielding impressive results. How impressive? Close to flat healthcare cost trend since 2007.

Charlie’s work is part of a growing trend among America’s most innovative companies: Designing healthcare benefits in ways that have a real impact on quality and cost. It’s why I [recently] asked Charlie to share the podium with me in Boca Raton. ConAgra is showing it’s possible to control healthcare costs by helping people do the right thing.

The vision behind ConAgra’s programs is simple: Employees have to be responsible for managing their own care. But, says Charlie, this is easy to say, harder to do. “So we do as much as we can to make it as easy for people to do the right thing.” ConAgra gives its employees a significant financial stake in their well-being, through a health plan that has a $1,500 deductible. ConAgra supplements the plan with a health savings account (HSA) that lets workers use pre-tax dollars to pay for the deductible. Like other HSAs, any money the employee doesn’t spend is theirs to keep. It means employees are more engaged in healthcare decisions.

ConAgra also motivates its employees to understand their health risks and to take care of themselves. For example, ConAgra pays for 100 percent of the cost of preventative treatments like medication for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and others. It pays for the cost of programs to help employees quit smoking and lose weight. “It’s hard to change,” says Charlie, “but the more you can do now to take care of yourself, the better off you’ll be.”

Finally, ConAgra focuses on making sure its employees have the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the healthcare system. Best Doctors forms an important part of that strategy. Through innovative and personalized online communications tools, ConAgra employees are encouraged to call Best Doctors when they’re trying to deal with a medical situation.

In the last year, 31 percent of ConAgra members who used Best Doctors found a problem with [a prior] diagnosis and more than half found something wrong with [a previously advised] treatment. Charlie says Best Doctors saves ConAgra more money than it spends on Best Doctors, which he likes a lot. But what he really likes is how it fits into ConAgra’s overall approach to benefits.

It may come as a surprise to some people that major U.S. corporations are so progressive when it comes to how they deal with healthcare, but it shouldn’t. Their stories need to be told, not just because they are interesting, but because they point the way forward for the rest of us. They are proof that it’s possible to change healthcare for the better.

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

You may also like these posts

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »