health care panel
Tatiana Bailey, director of the UCCS Economic Forum, speaks at the 2018 Health Care Panel.

Employers can cut growing health care costs by taking an active interest in employees’ health.

“Through wellness programs and by bringing [experts] in to talk your employees to educate them, employers can lower health care costs,” said Cory Arcarese, owner of Value Care Health Clinic. “I challenge employers to look at what their opinion is on health care because it is economics at the end of the day, and how involved are you with your employees and their health.”

Local health care and employee benefit experts, including Arcarese, last week provided attendees of the 2018 Health Care Panel with solutions to growing health insurance costs. The Business Journal and Kaiser Permanente presented the event.

Other panelists included: Andrea Baldrica, senior vice president of employee benefits at HUB International; Holly Kortum, executive director of Kaiser Permanente’s Southern Colorado operations; Tatiana Bailey, director of the UCCS Economic Forum; Brian Erling, CEO of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.

“People are more interested in health care costs today because it is affecting them personally,” Kortum said, adding there are multiple things business owners and employees should be considering when it comes to health care expenses and what insurance companies are doing.

“The first one is around technology,” she said. “Technology is changing the way health care is delivered.”

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At Kaiser Permanente, Kortum said patients can chat remotely with doctors using an instant message application and do video conferences.

“Those are things over time that can help drive health care costs down,” she said. “And it helps you as employers keep your employees at work.”

Most insurance companies have integrated some form of telemedicine into the plans they offer, Baldrica said.

“The biggest challenge for employers is the education around it because people don’t think about [telemedicine] at their time of need,” she said. “They go back to that muscle memory, which is driving to urgent care or the emergency room.”

Baldrica believes insurance brokers and employers should continually remind and educate employees about the advantages of using the remote service.

“So that when the time comes that’s what comes to their mind first,” she said. “It can’t and shouldn’t be something that is done as a replacement to a establishing real relationships with your primary care provider, but used for supplement care.”

Pharmaceutical costs also are rising; however, Kortum said there are ways for employers and employees to lower those.

“I think that it is really important for employees and employer groups to be looking at how are your prescription costs being delivered,” she said. “For instance, a generic has to be the exact same as a name brand [drug], but studies have shown over and over again that people will go into a store and see a red Tylenol flashy box and then another off brand in a white box and they will pick the red box for $2 more when it is the exact same medication.”

Those are choices Kortum believes people are making because they equate more expensive with higher quality care.

“But that’s not true,” she said. “They are the exact same medication.”

Lastly, Kortum spoke of the importance of employers, and in turn, employees understanding: right care, right place.

“People have a tendency to get confused with the new freestanding emergency departments and if they are urgent care or and an ER,” she said. “Then people get the bills and are like, ‘Why do I have to pay this much money for my sprained ankle?’ It’s because they went to an emergency room and not an urgent care, and they really could have probably gone to their primary care doctor for that.”

Arcarese said 77 percent of Coloradans without health insurance report they are uninsured because they can’t afford it.

“Whether their employer offers health insurance or not, they’re not taking advantage of it because they can’t afford the premiums,” she said. “If they get sick and go to the emergency room or urgent care and their bills are high and can’t pay them, then [insured patients] are paying for those bills.”

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