No, I’m not writing this from some exotic location in France, although it might have been easier to fly to France than to get here yesterday. This morning I presented a keynote at the 2009 Corporate Benefits Summit at the Château Élan Winery & Resort about 55 miles outside of Atlanta near the town of Braselton, Georgia. I arrived last evening in the midst of one of the most horrific downpours in the history of Atlanta. For a few hours, my direct flight from Seattle was diverted to Columbia, South Carolina. I didn’t make it to Atlanta until the sun was going down. Between the airport and the Château I saw lots of flooding and a few submerged cars, but fortunately I didn’t get stranded in the storm along the way.
The Corporate Benefits Summit brings together corporate benefits executives and providers of benefits services to explore innovative and creative wellness programs that will secure high levels of participation amongst employees as a way to curb healthcare costs. There is also significant focus on discovering effective methods to measure the ROI of such programs. My role was a keynote presentation on how the Internet, software and information technology are reshaping healthcare delivery and medical services around the world. This included a brief introduction to Microsoft HealthVault and how the platform can be used to improve the health and wellness of employees and their families.
What else is topical at the event? If you are like most people, especially younger people, you probably haven’t given much thought to your retirement. There are just too many other things calling for your attention and your money right now. But unless you work for the government or one of the few corporations still offering a pension, hang on to your socks. According to Steve Wetzell, Executive Vice President of the Health Care Policy Roundtable, most Americans are ill prepared for the new reality. Mr. Wetzell affirms something I addressed on HealthBlog not too long ago. The average American retiring at age 65, will need between $100,000 and $400,000 dollars just to cover out of pocket medical costs not covered by Medicare. And that doesn’t include any additional costs associated with long term care. He also mentioned that most of the health reform legislation now under consideration by Congress calls for means-testing Medicare benefits. If you have a little money behind you, plan on shelling out even more of it for things Medicare won’t cover. The bottom line: get a government job or just plan on working forever. That may be the new reality.
While here, I also ran into a colleague I hadn’t seen for several years. Dr. Michael Taylor is medical director for health promotion at Caterpillar, Incorporated in Peoria, Illinois. You might not think that a company focused on heavy machinery would be a leader in health promotion and wellness programs for its employees. However, Caterpillar has a long history of excellence in developing disease management programs that are improving the health and productivity of its workforce. Dr. Taylor admitted that the recent economic downturn has thwarted some of his good work, but he is confident when things turn around (as they always do) that his company’s programs will be leading the pack.
In fact, if there is an overarching theme here at the Corporate Benefits Conference it is the value that healthy, productive employees bring to the workplace. And in a workplace where people will likely be toiling well into what we used to call “the retirement years”, keeping folks healthy is not only the right thing to do, it is the fiscally prudent thing to do.
Next time around, I’ll be sharing highlights from the Health Plan Leadership Conference in Maui, Hawaii, where I will deliver a keynote address on September 29th. I know……. it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. Until then,
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health, Microsoft