Prevention Can Tame Rising Health Care Costs, Exec Says

By Stouffer, Rick | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 8, 2007 | Go to article overview

Prevention Can Tame Rising Health Care Costs, Exec Says


Stouffer, Rick, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Companies trying to hold down health care costs must be willing to pay more upfront expenses, a GlaxoSmithKline executive believes.

Paying for smoking cessation programs, healthy foods in the company cafeteria, even picking up the tab for early-detection testing and physician-visit copays could prevent future, more expensive hospital stays, said Robert Ingram, vice chairman of GlaxoSmithKline's Pharmaceutical operations, on Wednesday.

Ingram counts such employee-related actions as one point in a three-prong approach to controlling health care costs.

"The solutions to rising health care costs are prevention, intervention and innovation," said Ingram at a luncheon held by the Economic Club of Pittsburgh at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown.

To put the emphasis on disease and sickness prevention will take a mindset change in America, Ingram believes. "We don't have a health care system in this country, we have a sick-care system because we wait until a person is ill before taking action," he said.

Unfortunately, the United States is a nation rife with treatable, chronic diseases, according to Ingram. About 45 percent of all Americans 21 or older, 133 million people in 2005, have one or more chronic diseases, he said. A Centers for Disease Control 2004 report found that 44 percent of Americans take at least one prescription, and about 17 percent take three or more.

"Those 45 percent of Americans account for 75 percent of what's spent on health care, which totaled $2 trillion in 2005," Ingram said. Heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes combined to cost the nation about $750 billion, and contribute to seven of every 10 deaths, he added.

Specifically addressing cancer, Ingram was asked by former President George H.W. Bush in 2001, to put together a group of chief executives dedicated to eradicating the disease.

The result was the CEO Roundtable on Cancer which, in turn, developed the CEO Cancer Gold Standard, five recommendations any company can adopt to prevent and if needed, treat cancer in their work force. …

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