NEW ORLEANS – Providing health insurance coverage for employees is typically the second-largest cost to businesses - after salaries. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana’s president and CEO, Dr. I. Steven Udvarhelyi, addressed almost 400 local business leaders who gathered in New Orleans on Aug. 22 to discuss these cost pressures, and how continuing cost increases in healthcare and health insurance have a major economic impact in Louisiana and across the country.
Udvarhelyi’s comments came last week at the third annual Business to Business Forum on Healthcare Solutions (B2B Health Forum) at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. As in previous years, Blue Cross partnered with Greater New Orleans, Inc., and the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce to host the free event, adding the New Orleans Business Alliance this year.
The business leaders attended the event to learn more about the effects of prescription drug costs, the opioid epidemic, health care innovation, advances in care and changes to the health care reform law on their businesses. All of the above issues have major impact on small businesses, Udvarhelyi said in opening remarks, with employers’ contributions to family health coverage rising 60 percent since 2006. Rising costs hit their employees hard, too, with workers’ share of their coverage rising more than 80 percent in the same time period.
“When we talk about a turbulent healthcare industry, it is important to note that we are being pushed to change and grow. To make the necessary improvements to address health disparities, poor health outcomes and rising healthcare costs,” Udvarhelyi said. “One of the reasons we’ve co-hosted the B2B Health Forum for three years now is that it allows all of the participants to talk about ways to keep costs in line, share information and answer questions. If we can help bring healthcare and health insurance costs down, this is a win-win for the employer community, as well as for employees, healthcare providers and insurers.”
The forum featured a series of breakout sessions, a keynote address and an expert panel. Keynote speaker Adam Beck, vice president of employer health policy and initiatives at America’s Health Insurance Plans, addressed the role and value of the employer market in healthcare today, noting 180 million Americans get coverage through work.
“Employer group coverage has consistently led the way - employers partnering with insurers - to transform products from financing vehicles to multi-faceted health plans that emphasize prevention and the management of chronic conditions. Together, we made prevention programs, employee assistance programs, the norm. We’ve pioneered consumer-driven health products and price transparency tools,” Beck said.
Breakout sessions addressed topics including how changes in healthcare reform law might affect business, how Blue Cross is combating rising drug costs, the value of wellness in the workplace and how innovations like predictive modeling are improving care.
“Predictive models look at events that are going to happen in the future. For example, Amazon can predict what products you want to buy,” said Somesh Nigam, Blue Cross’ senior vice president and chief analytics and data officer, who led a breakout session on how the insurer uses data insights. “The very same technology can be used in healthcare to predict diabetes before diabetes happens, find people who may not take their medication, people who are having challenges in navigating the healthcare system. If we can predict these things ahead of time, we can actually take care of them before they become healthcare crises.”
After a networking lunch, the forum concluded with a panel Q&A discussion featuring CEOs Michael Hecht of GNO, Inc., Ben Johnson of the New Orleans Chamber, Quentin Messer of New Orleans Business Alliance and Stephen Waguespack of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Healthcare economist Michael Bertaut of Blue Cross moderated the panel.
“One of the biggest costs for any business, particularly small and medium businesses, is health insurance,” Messer said. “It’s important that people understand what quality healthcare is and how we can potentially drive costs lower. Overall, quality health management is incredibly important, not only for a business’s bottom line, but for people’s lives. Healthier people are more productive, they’re happier and they live longer lives and also that’s what we all want.”
Information presented at the forum is posted to the event website, bcbsla.com/b2bhealthforum, where materials can be downloaded.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is the largest private insurer in the state of Louisiana and has increased its commitment to the New Orleans region through hosting the B2B Health Forum; launching the New Orleans bike share program, Blue Bikes, in 2017; joining the Tulane School of Social Work to support its Elk Place Health Spot program; and co-sponsoring the 2018 New Orleans Health Innovators Challenge with New Orleans Business Alliance and Ochsner Health System. The insurer has also recently launched the SmartShopper website, designed to make healthcare pricing more transparent for Blue Cross customers across the state. And last year, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation gave grants to three New Orleans nonprofits—Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana, Collegiate Academies and Educare New Orleans—to improve or expand their services to at-risk children in the region.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. We invest both time and money in the communities we serve, supporting the health and wellbeing of Louisianians through more than 200 charitable organizations.
With our subsidiaries, HMO Louisiana and Southern National Life, we provide group and individual health insurance plans, life and disability insurance, group voluntary products and administrative services to one out of four Louisiana residents. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana also provides Medicare supplement and Medicare Advantage plans and is a partner in offering the Healthy Blue Medicaid Managed care plan. Louisiana is the only state where we operate, with offices in every major region to serve our customers.
Founded in New Orleans in 1934, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is a tax-paying non-profit health insurer. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
About Greater New Orleans, Inc.
Greater New Orleans, Inc. is a regional economic development alliance serving the 10-parish region of Southeast Louisiana. Our mission is to serve as the catalyst for wealth creation in the 10-parish region of Southeastern Louisiana. GNO, Inc. will accomplish this by pursuing an aggressive agenda of business development—marketing the region—and product development—improving regional business conditions through policy, workforce, and research initiatives.
Our vision is for the Greater New Orleans region to fulfill its potential as one of the best places in the country to grow a company and raise a family. The ultimate indication of success for GNO, Inc. will be the presence of a robust and growing middle class in Southeastern Louisiana.
About New Orleans Business Alliance
A public-private partnership between the business community and city government, the New Orleans Business Alliance is the official economic development organization for New Orleans. Formed in 2010, NOLABA’s goal is to position the city as the ideal intersection of commerce and culture. Focused on holistic economic development, NOLABA works to attract new business investment to New Orleans and assist incumbent businesses with growth, while offering New Orleans citizens comprehensive talent development programs beneficial for jobseekers and employees alike. Economic development matters only because people matter. By pursuing an inclusive economic development strategy, all New Orleanians will have enhanced economic security.
About The New Orleans Chamber
The New Orleans Chamber of Commerce was founded in 2004 to provide members with the opportunity to build mutually beneficial partnerships within the City of New Orleans. Currently the Chamber has about 1,300 members and also has the lowest dues in the region. Our mission is to provide the opportunities and resources that will enable businesses to prosper through networking, education and advocacy. Our vision is to be the leading membership organization that connects all businesses to foster opportunity, development and growth in the New Orleans community.