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By Joe McDonald

At Catholic Health, we are in the business of providing health care to thousands of people throughout the region. As one of the area’s largest employers, we are also responsible for providing health coverage to our associates and their families. Like two sides of a coin, we provide, as well as pay for, health care services within our community. And like most employers, health care costs make up a significant portion of our employee benefit expenses.

Early on in my tenure as CEO of Catholic Health, it became clear that we needed to look at health care costs from both sides of the coin. As a purchaser of health care, we want to get the best value for our system and our associates. Likewise, as a health care provider, we want to offer the best value to our patients and the business community. Based on this unique perspective, here are some things a CEO or business owner can do to get the most value for his or her health care dollar.

• Make evaluating health coverage an ongoing priority and something that is always open for review. It shouldn’t be treated as a crisis when premiums rise beyond your budget, or addressed once a year prior to open enrollment. As the complexity of health care increases, along with the options for health coverage, business owners and their teams need to understand the dynamics of the health care marketplace.

• Do a comprehensive inventory of the health care issues impacting your organization. Create a team or develop experts to become your organization’s health care scholars, making sure your finance and human resource teams are also on the same page regarding employee health benefits. If necessary, recruit individuals who have a core competency and interest in the complexities surrounding this important issue.

• Learn more about your company’s health care profile (usage, trends, etc.) and use this information to find out where you spend most of your premium dollars. Can you restructure your health benefit package in a way that results in better outcomes for you and your employees? Are there collaborative ventures between insurance companies and providers that can better meet your needs and reduce premium costs?

Because we have a responsibility to provide affordable care, as well as get the most quality and value for our own health coverage, Catholic Health developed a self-funded health plan, called First Choice, using the medical resources available within our system. The plan is working for us, saving our system – and our associates – money in premium costs, while raising the bar on quality and care coordination.

By learning all you can about your organization’s health care needs and the new types of benefit plan options available in our community, you, too, can take steps to improve the health of your employees as well as your bottom line.

Joe McDonald is president and CEO of Catholic Health.