SUMMARY: School districts, town government and businesses all feel whipsawed by rising health care costs. One town in South Carolina took the initiative to fix the problem, and it has had some great results.
The town is Mount Pleasant, S.C., and its administrator, Eric DeMoura, got permission from the town council to work the problem in 2012. This article in The Post and Courier by Robert Behre documents the results: a drop in insurance premiums, a general increase in healthy living, a thoughtful series of wellness initiatives, and the institution of a primary care doctor who’s working out of town hall.
“Working with a consultant, the town began a years-long project to revamp how it provided health care with a focus on three areas – promoting employees’ wellness, bringing market forces back into play, and making it easier for employees to receive primary care.
“DeMoura, who became administrator in 2010, took a personal interest after his young daughter began suffering persistent, mysterious headaches. He had the town’s Human Resources Department to inquire about what different providers charged for an MRI scan, and HR Officer Meghan Kelly made some calls.
“‘We started calling places, and they couldn’t tell us what the price tag was going to be,’ she said. She persisted and found prices that ranged from $430 to $1,800 for the MRI scan.
“She priced other services and found that the cost of a colonoscopy, for example, ranged from $897 to $5,561, while a knee arthroscopy and repair ranged from $2,700 to $16,000.”
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.