City takes on health costs - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City takes on health costs

March 7, 2006

Albany -- The City of Albany may join a coalition of businesses fighting to lower health care costs in this area. More than 20 businesses have now joined the Coalition for Affordable and Competitive Health Care.

The businesses complain health care costs in Albany are some of the highest in the country, which is hurting business and employees.

Procter and Gamble helped formed the coalition after it found the Albany plant was paying $1,400 more per employee for health care than at their other plants across the nation. More businesses, facing the same problem, joined in the fight to lower those costs.

Today, the coalition encouraged the city of Albany to join or at least, help area businesses find a money saving solution.

Procter and Gamble External Affairs Manager Vince Falcione urged Albany commissioners to examine the city's health care costs. "Get on board with us and helps us fix this," he said. "Anybody who has employees, you would think, would want to get involved to see what going on and to lower our costs," said Falcione.

He said the City should join the Coalition for Affordable and Competitive Health Care. The coalition is working to find out why health care costs are so much higher in Albany and how to lower those skyrocketing prices.

The City spent more than $15 million on health care last year, and that's why commissioner Bo Dorough thinks the city should join the coalition. "The city, county and WG&L together have more than 2,000 employees in the group health care plan. We certainly need to have a seat at the table when these issues are being discussed," said Dorough.

And Dorough says not only do high health care costs hurt city employees, but they also hurt the tax base by deterring business expansion and relocation. "Because there will be, in the next few years, corporate realigning and down sizing. We have to be cognizant of that."

Falcione says it will take the local government, businesses, hospitals, health care providers and insurers working together to lower costs. And he says the city, county and business community should pressure the Phoebe Hospital Authority to fulfill their promise. "Part of their job is to maintain health care costs. We think that we should start leveraging that. If they've been doing it, they need to do a better job. We just need to help with that," Falcione said.

Falcione also says competition is key to keeping to health care costs low. And, he says state laws, requiring what's called a certificate of need, are standing in the way of competition. "In order to grow a facility or put in so many beds or to add certain procedures, you need go through the CON [Certificate of Need] process. It cost lots of money."

The Coalition is working with Governor's office to study the Certificate of Need requirements. Vince Falcione hopes the laws will be changed to encourage competition among health care providers which would in turn lower prices.

The Coalition is holding another meeting tomorrow to talk about it's next step in the fight to reduce health care costs.

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