By Guest Columnist SHANE JACKSON, president of Jackson Healthcare of Alpharetta
Warren Buffet, one of the most successful businessmen in U.S. history, has called the soaring cost of healthcare a “tapeworm” on the American economy. He and two other Wall Street giants, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan, have announced a joint venture in an attempt to dramatically reduce the inflationary pressure on healthcare delivery.
While everyone from physicians to hospitals, insurance companies and investors are taking notice, this is merely the latest example of employers across the country trying to impact the cost curve of medicine. Providing health care for employees and their families is one of the largest and fastest growing parts of a corporate budget.
Healthcare consumes almost 18 percent of the U.S. economy or $10,348 per person and reached $3.3 trillion in 2016, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. About half the nation receives healthcare coverage from a group plan at work, and the Kaiser Family Foundation says that companies cover 72 percent of the cost for a family.
To create change, one must possess the motivation, means and influence to do so. Only American companies possess all three of these when it comes to healthcare. They have the motivation of improving a huge financial drain for themselves and their employees, the means of controlling how they spend what is the lion’s share of healthcare dollars, and the influence to impact employees’ behavior when it comes to healthcare spending.
While hospitals and insurance companies, public officials, nonprofits, and even doctors have tried and failed to dramatically impact healthcare expenditures, none have the potential to drive change like employers.
Though we are not the size of Amazon or JP Morgan, we at Jackson Healthcare and a growing number of other companies like us are creating successful models for delivery of care for our employees and their families that are increasing quality and containing costs.
In 2013, Jackson Healthcare opened an on-site medical clinic to treat everything from colds and flu to chronic illnesses. We have a clinic staffed with physicians, advanced practice professionals and nurses who dispense medications at no cost to the employee or their family. In addition, the clinic conducts labs, offers routine checkups including mammograms and has an optical service on-site.
When we complete our $100 million corporate expansion in Alpharetta later this year, Jackson Healthcare will add more clinic rooms, a dental clinic and chiropractic services. While we still offer traditional health insurance coverage, we focus on prevention and the comprehensive health of the associate – with providers who are incented to keep people healthy and not just retroactively treat sickness.
Our primary goal – and the target of any cost containment in healthcare – has been to control chronic diseases so that no associate winds up with a catastrophic illness or in the hospital. Our medical staff works with associates to manage conditions ranging from asthma and heart disease to diabetes and high blood pressure. Additional physicians are available via telemedicine 24 hours a day for any situation.
During the past seven years, as other employers have suffered double-digit inflation in healthcare expenditures, Jackson Healthcare has only experienced increases of half that of our peers. In addition, 900 associates who use the clinic at our Atlanta campus save time and money for their families by seeing an on-site physician instead of navigating an insurance plan and network doctors, deductibles and co-pays.
Buffet, Bezos and Dimon know the traditional delivery model for healthcare is not working for employers, their 1.1 million employees or American workers across the country. More and more employers are discovering that they must actively engage and innovate the way healthcare services are delivered to their employees. It not only makes business sense for them, but will be a primary source of improvement in the healthcare system. No other entity can have such a profound impact on healthcare costs as a company that needs healthy employees to be productive.
Note to readers: Jackson Healthcare, of Alpharetta, is the third-largest U.S. healthcare staffing firm and 17th largest private company in Atlanta, with nearly $1 billion in revenue and 1,300 associates.