Something different…

A coal miner in Wyoming has taken a nontraditional approach to reducing health care expenses: incenting workers to receive care at the nation’s best health care organizations.

From Bloomberg:

The coal producer says it has found an unconventional way to cut health costs: Seek out the nation’s best care and give workers incentives to use it. About two-thirds of operations have proven to be cheaper at better-rated hospitals out of state. Even when the price was higher, the Linthicum Heights, Maryland-based company saved money by reducing misdiagnoses, complications and repeat procedures.

The cost savings:

Health-care costs for an average employee at Foundation’s two Wyoming mines have dropped about 5 percent a year since the program took full effect in 2005, while U.S. spending rose about 7 percent annually. As Foundation’s Wyoming workforce grew, its total medical bills remained steady at about $5.5 million a year.

The article says the Wyoming experiment could be a model for regulators centered on curbing the growth of health care costs in this country.  “The approach in Wyoming is a twist on efforts by insurers and Medicare, the U.S. health program for the elderly and disabled, to encourage better care by rewarding hospitals that meet national quality standards.”

The thought is good, the reality is trouble.

This part is easy: capacity limitations would prevent the majority of Americans from seeking care at places like the Mayo Clinic.  Our health care consumption habits require large amounts of capacity and receiving care from a national health care leader is just not realistic for every patient.

Replicating quality efforts is a much more realistic thought—and one that could pave the way for better care for everyone.

We can’t blame any company for focusing on a fix for their health care problems; but a collaborative effort to reduce costs for all is much more likely to become a health care solution.