While Democrats and Republicans tussle over whether to repeal the federal healthcare reform law, employers and individual consumers have to make choices about how to cope with the ever-increasing cost of health insurance and medical care. The Bay Area Council, an influential trade group for more than 275 large employers in Northern California, offered some guidance on that front this week, urging businesses to promote a more affordable, higher-quality healthcare system. The new federal law will help on that front, the council argues in its "Roadmap to a High-Value Health System," but there is much for employers, insurers and healthcare providers to do as well.
The council is trying to provide leadership on the issue in part because its members, which include the likes of Google, Chevron and Bank of America, foot the bill for so many Californians' health insurance. Those companies have seen healthcare costs rise faster over the last decade than many of their other expenses. That's a problem not faced by their competitors overseas, where workers' health insurance costs are typically covered by all taxpayers, not just by employers.
The answer to the problem isn't as simple as requiring doctors and hospitals to post their prices so that consumers can shop more effectively for healthcare. According to the report, "the vast majority of healthcare costs are accrued in emergency, end-of-life or chronic disease management situations" that make comparison shopping impossible or counterproductive.