The growing business presence in health care

Last week’s Wal-Mart health care announcement was another step in its progressive image-altering effort (or just a shrewd business move).  It also happens to be a big deal.  And not just on the employer mandate front.  Or on the partnering with a union issue either.  Or how the move increases the likelihood of reform.

It’s a big deal because it signals the rising influence of business in the day-to-day delivery of health care.  From The Wall Street Journal:

The company says it supports the employer mandate because all businesses should share the burden of fixing the health-care system. Wal-Mart also said the mandate will only work if it is accompanied by a government commitment to rein in health-care costs that is guaranteed.

“…all businesses should share the burden of fixing the health-care system.”  Not the burden of paying for health care, but the burden for fixing the system.  Why not?  Health care, on the whole, has proved year after year its ineptitude for fixing itself, its inability to reduce the cost of care, or at the least, prove its increased value.  The annual dollars business spends on health care gives it the right to muddle.  Business needs health care reform.

The second sentence in the WSJ paragraph above is the how: a guaranteed reining in of health care costs.  Whether that’s possible is irrelevant, it’s going to happen.  Reducing reimbursement is a cost cutting mechanism: CMS leads, private payers follow.

Business has efforts in place to improve quality.  Improving efficiency and distribution of resources is a logical next step.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  It just is.  (It may even be welcomed.)  The impact on decision making at the delivery level will be significant.

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