On Wednesday, March 19th, the Mississippi Business Group on Health held its first meeting at Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company in Jackson, Mississippi with close to 100 professionals in attendance representing a broad spectrum of business.
President of the organization and SFB executive, Billy Sims, welcomed members and invited guests to the meeting where he proceeded to share the origins of the MSBGH and why, for the benefit of HR professionals, a group such as the MSBGH is needed in Mississippi to be the voice for employers on health care issues. Sims shared with the attendees that Mississippi employers have seen double digit increases in health care cost over many years which has hampered their ability to grow.
With health care being a major and pressing issue and with national reforms increasing the costs to employers, members of the newly-formed MSBGH are seeking like-minded collaborators to find reasonable solutions to health care quality, hospital safety, and other health cost challenges. In his remarks. Sims noted that employers are seeking better ways to leverage the health insurance and provider marketplace to secure quality data for analysis along with identifying and providing evidence-based and best practice solutions to proactively manage their health plans and associated costs.
Murray Harber, Executive Director of the MSBGH, shared information about its Board of Directions, its mission and vision, and the guiding principles of the organization. The group will facilitate communication among members, government, and the health care industry regarding issues of common concern. They, in turn, will work collaboratively to foster a community which will develop a high quality health care system based on scientific evidence and industry best practices.
The group’s core missions are to offer high quality learning opportunities and resources, promote best practice and evidence-based strategies, encourage value-based benefit design and proven employer health management strategies, and foster data transparency as well as data analytics within the system.
Brandy Huff, Health and Safety Manager of Levis Strauss and Co. and MSBGH Board Member, shared with the group the topics the organization had focused on in preliminary discussions along with the concept of think tank meetings of members to address specific topics. She also pointed out that the group has been providing and will continue to provide expert speakers on employee health and health care topics to other organizations such as the Mississippi Association of Self Insurers, Society for Human Resource Management, Mississippi Association of Health Underwriters, and the Mississippi Association of Health Plans. As but one upcoming example, both Sims and Harber will be presenting on Value-Based Benefit Design at the Mississippi State University’s Insurance Day on March 26th which will have close to 600 participants.
Lance Bonner, Chief Operating Officer at Butler Snow law firm and MSBGH Board Member, shared information about best practices in employee health management. He noted that many of the board members already use these in their existing programs and that MSBGH will promote them to other businesses in the state. Knowing what makes a difference and what doesn’t helps employers save time and money on researching and implementing less effective strategies, Bonner said. By encouraging best practice solutions within the coalition, such action will advance the learning curve of employers of all size and shapes in the state.
Harber discussed the concept of total cost of health to employers where health insurance costs are only 25% of the main issue. Absence, wage replacement, and productivity drains due to ill-health comprise the other 75% of costs. Employees have been sheltered from the true cost of health care and the concept of “transparency” will help improve consumer knowledge, provider performance, and plan understanding. Harber also shared that MSBGH will be working to develop a data warehouse to collect information of all types and report on and relay effective solutions and create high performance networks.
Sims, in his talk, also discussed the concept of value-based benefit design which can reduce barriers for high-valued services and will improve the performance of the health plan in place. Some of the members are utilizing these strategies with onsite health clinics, providing free generic medications, and making tobacco cessation a no-cost item to the health plan member.
Ron Aldridge, MSBGH Advisory Committee member, along with Dan Gibson, the Executive Director of MASI, gave a legislative update on issues at the State Capitol that are relevant to Mississippi employers. Aldridge commented during his presentation that he was glad there was now a group in existence to address the health issues of concern to Mississippi employers as there had been a noticeable void in that realm.
Harber closed the morning-long seminar out by stating that the group will continue to grow and expand statewide through effective collaborations and collective interest. He encouraged members to share the goals and mission of MSBGH with other employers and to participate in all upcoming events the group is planning in order to be part of the solution in improving employer health and health care in Mississippi.
The MSBGH’s first annual meeting will be held on June 5th in Jackson and more information can be found at www.msbgh.org.
Read the Follow-Up Q&A With Murray Harber About The MS Business Group On Health.
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