Accepting responsibility could control healthcare costs

We all know the healthcare system is facing dire straits with escalating costs that threaten the entire marketplace. That's nothing new. What is new is one health insurer's approach to addressing the problem--taking ownership and accepting responsibility.

"We understand that reining in medical costs is an urgent and challenging issue," says Brad Wilson, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina president and CEO. "But we also recognize if we're going to make progress, the scapegoating that has driven the conversation to this point must stop."

I like his thinking. It is often difficult to honestly assess a challenge, whether in your business or personal life, without first examining mistakes made or problems that you caused. By taking ownership of any flaws, you can move forward with open eyes toward a real and meaningful solution.

BCBSNC is aiming to do just that by issuing a challenge for all groups in the healthcare system--including health insurers--to stop looking for scapegoats and start working together to rein in medical costs. The company launched a campaign emphasizing that everyone must take responsibility for finding solutions to achieve affordable healthcare.

By admitting its own culpability in the problem of escalating healthcare costs, BCBSNC hopes it will engender a willingness from other stakeholders to collaborate on a solution. "Let's be honest--the conversation wouldn't get very far if we weren't willing to admit our own role in contributing to this problem," Michelle Douglas, communications specialist for BCBSNC, told FierceHealthPayer. "We're not interested in simply shifting blame for the problem to someone else. We want to work toward solving the problem and that requires collaboration--each of us working together to find solutions."

The goal of the campaign is to "bring everyone to the table" to problem solve solutions to rising healthcare costs. The "table" in this case is a website BCBSNC offers discussion forums where "real unfiltered discussions can happen,"  and the insurer can gather thoughts and input from as many consumers and industry leaders as it can. "We know there are many great ideas out there, and we hope this website encourages people to share them," Douglas said. 

The site also educates visitors about the drivers of medical costs, backed by third-party research and statistics.

As it collects information from the Let's Talk Cost website, BCBSNC wants to develop actionable solutions, learning from others' opinions and ideas on how to improve the healthcare system in North Carolina, says Douglas. The insurer already is taking steps to reduce the costs that it can directly control, including reducing its administrative costs by 20 percent and working with doctors and hospitals in new ways to improve quality of care and to control costs. But it wants to have a larger role in the solution.

"Too much of the public debate on healthcare has been a blame game. We don't have all the answers yet, and we know we can't tackle this problem alone."

I, for one, couldn't agree more and greatly appreciate the honesty. - Dina