Home » OPINION » Columns » ALAN TURNER: Mississippi Business Group on Health: Committed to meeting the long-term challenges in health care

ALAN TURNER: Mississippi Business Group on Health: Committed to meeting the long-term challenges in health care

As those of you who may have read my past columns on health care are aware, I’m greatly concerned about the future of health care in Mississippi and throughout our nation, and how these challenges will affect businesses of all types and sizes.

Alan Turner

Alan Turner

There is a least one Mississippi business group that is seeking to come up with solutions and ways to meet those challenges. I met recently with folks representing the Mississippi Business Group on Health, a coalition of Mississipi employers. The president for the coalition is Billy Sims, who is vice president of human resources at Southern Farm Bureau Insurance, and the group’s executive director is Murray Harber.

What does this group hope to accomplish? Essentially, they’re committed to help Mississippi employers learn how to design and manage value based benefit, foster wellness programs, and promote best practices for all employers and employees. Their goals are to achieve optimal (and efficient) health care spending, maximal health system performance and improved population health.

Obviously, those are major challenges, but as Billy and Murray pointed out, there is strength in numbers, and the greater the number of companies involved, the better the results. The Mississippi Business Group on Health is also aligned with the national business coalition, so there is clearly a coordinated effort to share information and resources throughout the country.

While both men were in agreement that access to quality health care is important, the point was made that “access to health care accounts for only about 10% of overall health outcomes… it’s hard to overstate the importance of people living healthier lifestyles.” This is especially true in Mississippi, where we recently achieved the dubious distinction of being the least healthy state in the United States.

Billy pointed to ongoing wellness programs at Southern Farm Bureau that are meant to encourage and foster better lifestyle choices such as exercise, healthy eating choices, and preventive care. At their offices, for instance, they have programs to help their employees make the right choices, and they also have an on-site clinic with a resident nurse practitioner.

What about Obamacare? They made an interesting point which might be that there is a silver lining behind every cloud.

“Obamacare is not necessarily a long-term solution,” they agreed. “But for one thing, it has certainly caused people and companies to be more conscious of the needs, and to get together and look at possible solutions.”

What they don’t want to see is what many fear: That employers will begin to drop their health care coverage for employees and “dump them” onto the health exchanges. The Mississippi Business Group on Health is working to help companies make the best possible decisions pertaining to the health of their employees.

This is a vital mission. As I have pointed out in recent columns, the growth in the rate of health care spending in the U.S. is simply not sustainable, and while it is impossible to accurately predict what will happen if that continues for another 5 years, one can safely conclude that it won’t be a positive outcome for the nation and its citizens.

I certainly applaud the work that the Mississippi Business Group on Health is seeking to conduct in our state, and would encourage other companies to learn about their organization. Their website is MSBGH.org. Executive director Murray Harber can be reached at (601) 540-8699, or by email at info@msbgh.org.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1021.


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