Fighting increasing health care costs - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fighting increasing health care costs

July 20, 2006

Albany -- It's been one year since Albany's three largest industries reported their employee health care costs were higher than anywhere else in the nation.

Procter and Gamble, Cooper Tire, and Miller Brewing in Albany banded together to start CACH, the Coalition for Affordable and Competitive Healthcare.  It is an action group to fight skyrocketing health care costs in Southwest Georgia. CACH is reaching out to small businesses to join them.

Procter and Gamble's Vince Falcione speaks to the Rotary Club lunch meeting about health care costs in Southwest Georgia. Falcione said "We were spending 14-hundred dollars more per employee here in Southwest Georgia. What is wrong with that picture?"

 Falcione is the President of CACH, and Procter and Gamble has made this his top priority job trying to lower his plant's employee health care costs. Vince Falcione said "It's slow, but you know what, it's worth it."

 P and G, Miller, and Cooper human resources compared Albany's plants employee health care costs to their other plants around the nation, and Southwest Georgia's were alarmingly higher. $1403 per employee higher than their national average, $2349 higher than in other areas around the Southeastern United States.

The medical inflation for their employee health care costs rose 17 percent from 2003 to 2004, costing the Albany plant's and their employees $8, 500,000 more than other Southeastern communities.

 Falcione said "we are not about throwing darts. We know the checks we write at the end of the month, and what we pay for health care costs. And we are not competitive, and we need to do something about that."

Falcione and CACH point out this is an economic development nightmare, costing their plants, employees, and all Southwest Georgians jobs and new development,because industry will go where costs are less.

 CACH believes Georgia's Certificate of Need laws need updating. CON laws create medical monopolies for not for profit hospitals. Those hospitals, like Phoebe Putney in Albany, say they need CON protection to give the best care to patients who can pay, and those who can't, and that CON does not drive up costs.

 But Albany industry says Southwest Georgians need more choice in their health care options to bring prices in line. Falcione said "But don't challenge my data. I know what I write out for every employee for every stinking month. And I can tell you in the last year since we started this coalition, our prices have not improved any."

Falcione speaks to civic clubs often, inviting the small business owners to help CACH find solutions to the spiraling health care costs in Southwest Georgia.

Falcione says CACH now has about 50 industry and business representatives, including Doctors, hospitals, and the city and county government. The group is lobbying the state legislature to bring competition to health care.

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