Cover Story: Health care reform do-over?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - With our attention on the health care reform summit in Washington, DC on Thursday, in our Cover Story PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson is asking would Corporate America have done a better job rolling out a Health Care plan?  A local expert tackles the issue.

Most people would agree our health care system needs a makeover and there's also universal agreement that Congress has botched it, otherwise Thursday's summit would not have been necessary.

Are there lessons we could learn from a business approach?  Where Congress goofed.  See if you agree.

When it comes to health care reform Kenny Colbert has a perspective worth hearing.

As the president of Charlotte-based The Employers Association a non-profit that advises companies large and small, and after all it's through companies where most people get their health insurance, Colbert has a handle on what employers think about a government makeover of something that's one-sixth of the American economy.

"A lot of people are saying I don't mind contributing something because we do need health care reform," says Colbert.  "And I don't mind paying my share but what is it going to cost me? Is it $100 a year or $5,000 dollars a year? Nobody knows. That's the question."

President Obama's plan, now the third plan on the table, doesn't spell it out either.

$1 trillion is the total cost and it's focused mainly on the 50-million uninsured Americans and the 27-million who have to buy their own coverage.

People who have health insurance through their employer would get some benefits, like controlled costs, elimination of pre-existing conditions and being able to keep children in their late 20s on the company plan.

But how would it work and what is it going to cost an individual taxpayer, a small business and a large company?

No one's said.  They do say Congress goofed.

"Congress mishandled this whole process," says Colbert.

So take a page from a businessman's playbook?

Colbert offered Congress three do-overs in an opinion piece written to the heads of 850 area companies in The Employers Association.

Number 1.  If you're going to rollout something "new and improved" make the owner's manual simple.

"Nobody could really understand the legislation because you're talking about something several thousand pages long."

Number 2.  Don't do too much at once.  Congress tried the stimulus package and health care, together about $2 trillion of your money.

"If you look at the major companies, Microsoft and Apple," says Colbert.  "They introduce a product every two-to-three years and they have an effective rollout. We didn't have this. So this scared us to deal from a financial standpoint."

And number 3 he says be honest with your customers.  "The dirty politics behind it, where you have to go buy votes from Nebraska. Or $300 million exchange in order to get the union buy in you cut a deal their "Cadillac" plans weren't going to be taxed for several years.  That just left a bad taste in peoples' mouths."

Realize Congress is full of politicians and has never operated like a business but we can dream.

Interesting to note opinion polls indicate the public is skeptical about health care reform, but in those same polls if you go deeper and ask whether you want controlled costs, pre-existing conditions eliminated and coverage for all those same respondents would answer yes to all three questions.

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