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October 30, 2007 - Cutting the Fat in Health Care

What: Colorado Culture of Health Conference

Where: Adam's Mark Hotel, Denver

When: Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Time: 7:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Introductions: Tom Mustin, CBS4 news anchor

Welcome: Tom Clark, Executive VP, Metro Denver Economic Corp.

Speaker: Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien, Tom Clark, Dr. Raymond Zastrow, Dr. David Hunnicut, Helen Thompson, Elaine Torres, Dr. Thomas Parry

Sponsors: Colorado Business Group on Health; Metro Denver Health & Wellness Commission; sanofi aventis; Aetna; Lockton; Merk; Pfizer; CIGNA; Anthem; Wyeth Healthcare Systems; Allergan; Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc.; AstraZeneca; Centura Health; Kaiser Permanente; Rocky Mountain Health Plans

Menu: Scrambled eggs, sausage, fruit, yogurt, sweet rolls

Attire: Business

Event Coordinator: Kristen Berg

Blacktie Photos by: M. Darcy

 Donna Marshall of the Colorado Group on Health and Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien are working on the 208/Blue Ribbon Commission to make sure everyone has access to healthcare.
Donna Marshall of the Colorado Group on Health and Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien are working on the 208/Blue Ribbon Commission to make sure everyone has access to healthcare.

Colorado ranks as the leanest state in the US, and this is good news, because the health of its economy is linked to the health of its citizens. The United States spends more on health care than any other industrialized nation in the world ($16.5 billion to be exact) and yet preventable illnesses account for eight of the nine leading causes of death – and these make up 90% of all health care costs. Employers are paying for most of those costs, money they could otherwise spend on investments and creating more jobs.

On October 30, the Colorado Business Group on Health and the Metro Denver Health & Wellness Commission invited CEOs and health insurance partners to attend the Colorado Culture of Health Conference focusing on strategies to reducing health care costs. Speakers and vendors offered strategies that focused on preventative wellness.

“We’ve got the best ‘sickcare’ system in the world,” quipped Dr. Raymond Zastrow of QuadMed, a subsidiary of QuadGraphics. He pointed out that our health care system is built around managing crises, not in preventative medicine. His company has designed a wellness plan for employees, which rewards good health and good health habits. Changes in lifestyle behavior, such as quitting smoking or exercising, can earn employees reduced premiums or cash incentives to Disneyland. “Focus on health, not sickness,” Zastrow reiterated. When you consider that one heart attack can cost $40,000 (one attack caused by obesity, caused by a sedentary lifestyle) and that it can cost $500,000 not to prevent cancer, a trip to the Magic Kingdom is a good investment on your return.

Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien has been fighting to ensure access to healthcare for all. “A healthy public and affordable insurance go hand in hand,” she said. When employees are working two jobs to pay their insurance premiums, they don’t have the time to exercise and eat right. “We can take control of our quality of life at our worksite.” Businesses can design walking paths and gyms in their compounds and encourage healthier food choices among employees.

Tom Clark of Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation added, “We need to make health and wellness part of our culture. It starts at the CEO level, not with HR – in modeling behavior, creating programs and incentives, talking about it and finding product champions in your people.”

Dr. David Hunnicut put it bluntly, “Exercising 30 minutes a day five days a week can delay the onset of disability by 12 years. With preventative medicine and good lifestyle choices, I can expect to live 88 years – in good health. When I go, I want to be 80 years old, skiing down Aspen and smack into a tree, and bam, it’s the big dirt nap. I don’t want to linger for 10, 12 years in miserable health.” If that doesn’t resonate with you, maybe the bottom line will. Hunnicut finished with three points: 1. Health care is expensive. 47 million don’t even have it. And less that 1% of our budget is spent on prevention. 2. Health care will get worse. There are 80,000 baby boomers about to experience disability, mainly due to lack of prevention. 3. Many current health care problems can be fixed. There is a return of $3.50 to $16.00 for every dollar we invest in prevention. Simply put, if you reduce the risk, you reduce the cost. Colorado already leads in having the thinnest citizens. As the conference showed, it’s also on the way to having the healthiest citizens and becoming a leader for other states to follow.

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