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What poor-quality care costs employers

By - Last modified: January 17, 2013 at 9:01 AM
Heather Stauffer
Heather Stauffer

The answer is $1,900 to $2,250 per employee per year.

And the question is what poor-quality health care — excessive, ineffective or harmful — costs companies, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

It's easy to think of health care quality as a consumer issue, but as the report points out, employers are the largest purchaser of health care in America, and not getting their money's worth hurts them.

Just in case you haven't already done the math, if you use the lower figure, the damage comes to $19,000 for 10 employees; $47,500 for 25 employees; $95,000 for 50 employees; and so on. Not pocket change.

Or, if it's avoidable sick days you care about, RWJF has a shocking figure for that too: 45 million per year caused by poor-quality care.

But it's empowerment, not just pain, that RWJF is preaching. As the largest purchaser of health care, employers have market power to wield. Specifically, RWJF suggests these four actions:

• Sponsoring wellness programs.

• Promoting quality reports on doctors and hospitals (this might be a good place to start).

• Implementing value-based benefit design.

• Joining a business health alliance.


Those last three words, business health alliance, reminded me of something I recently read from the Kaiser Family Foundation, of which I will now quote the entirety of the applicable section. It's about the proposed insurance regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in November.

"Definition of group and individual health insurance markets - The definition would be based on the ultimate purchaser of health insurance — an individual or a small employer (defined in 2014 as a firm with at least two and up to 50 employees.) This definition effectively changes the treatment of association coverage. Today, many individuals and small businesses purchase coverage through associations — for example, through a local Chamber of Commerce or professional association, or some other membership organization. In many states, such associations are considered to be large groups, and so coverage sold through them today may be exempt from some or all of the rules that would otherwise apply to traditional health insurance markets for individuals and small employers. Under the market reform NPRM, associations that provide health insurance coverage for individuals and small employers would be subject to the same market rules that would otherwise apply to the individual and small group markets. "

I bolded that sentence because Pennsylvania is one of those states.


By the way, it's possible that you're unaware that one of RWJF's signature initiatives, Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q), has a local branch.

The South Central Pennsylvania organization, which includes partners in York and Adams counties, partners with employers such as WellSpan to implement employee wellness programs that help those with complex or chronic health issues better manage their health, work with their physicians and avoid preventable hospital stays.

The branch also hosts an annual wellness summit with local employers and other stakeholders to discuss these issues and share best practices, and its website includes detailed quality information for the four hospitals in its area.


Thinking it was new, someone at work recently emailed me a link to WellSpan Health's mobile app page. It has existed for a while, actually — but I figured if that person wasn't aware of it, you might not be either.

I did a quick search and discovered these:

A mobile app for Lancaster General Health.

A Health Hub of Central PA mobile app from PinnacleHealth designed to locate fitness centers and healthful restaurant options.

• An online "send an ECard to a Memorial Hospital of York patient" program.

• An online virtual tour of Good Samaritan Health System.

Moral of the story: Check your hospital or health system's website — it may well have a handy and helpful program that you're not aware of.


Finally, I found this patient health record contest strangely fascinating. I went to the site because the phrase "printed health records to help patients better understand and use their electronic health records" caught my eye — but I stayed because I was trying to decide which one I preferred, and why.

Then again, I also found "Visualize Your Resume as an Infographic" entrancing — so it's possible I'm just abnormally fond of infographics.

Heather Stauffer covers Lancaster County, nonprofits and health care. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at heathers@centralpennbusiness.com. You can also follow her on Twitter, @StaufferCPBJ.