New Indiana partnership focuses on reducing health care costs, improving workforce health

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Several Indiana employers, universities and health care organizations have joined forces with the goal of reducing health care costs and maintaining a healthy workforce.

The members on Thursday launched the Indiana Business Health Collaborative, a new partnership that wants to improve Indiana’s health profile through private-sector solutions. Indiana is ranked by numerous health organizations as one of the least healthy states in the nation and has life expectancy two years below the national average.

“The status quo is unacceptable in health care, and everybody recognizes that health care costs are too high,” Luke Messer, the group’s CEO, told IBJ. “And in Indiana, we don’t have adequate health care outcomes either.”

Messer, a partner at the Indianapolis law firm Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, is a former executive director of the Indiana Republican Party. He served as an Indiana state representative for four years and congressman from Indiana’s 6th District for six years.

He said the new partnership wants to build collaborative relationships with lawmakers, regulators, health care providers, and others, focusing on “market-based, patient-centered and outcome-focused” solutions.

He said the goal is not to usurp public policy makers, but to work with them. In recent years, the Indiana General Assembly has passed numerous controversial health care laws, including a ban on most abortions, a prohibition on “facility fees” (or extra charges hospitals sometimes tack onto medical bills) and a ban on hospital systems’ requirement that primary care physicians sign noncompete agreements.

“I applaud the work of the legislature over the last three or four years,” Messer said. “They passed some important policy changes and they’ve certainly brought a lot of awareness to the health challenges we face as a state.”

He added: “But you know, by its very nature, the legislative sessions are combative and unfortunately, the past several years of legislative debate have generated into a further divide between employers, health care industry stakeholders, and policymakers. Our hope is to bridge that divide and bring people together.”

Members of the collaborative include players based in central Indiana, such as drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co., the Indy Chamber, Ivy Tech Community College, Suburban Health Organization, Managed Health Services (better known as MHS) and Zotec Partners, a medical-billing service.

“Improving health outcomes for Hoosiers begins with expanding access to high-quality health care through innovative ideas and a market-based approach,” Kevin Hern, senior vice president, Value & Access for Lilly USA, said in written remarks.

Other members from around the state include University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Cummins Inc. in Columbus, Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany, Beacon Health System in South Bend and New Albany, Good Samaritan in Vincennes.

“As one of the largest employers in our community, we care deeply about the cost of health care and the need for partnerships with business leaders and other stakeholders to continue to shape health care delivery, so it is sustainable for everyone, long into the future,” Kreg Gruber, CEO of Beacon Health System, said in written remarks.

Messer said he expects other organizations to join the collaborative in coming months. He said the group does not yet have a strategic plan but intends to conduct a “listening tour” and release a policy report later this year. Messer said the organization has just two part-time employees for now, including himself.

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