Health care accounts for almost one-fifth of the U.S. economy — or $2.8 trillion, give or take a few hundred billion. So it stands to reason that any forecast of our economy for 2015 needs to include a healthy dose of health care.
Our CEO, Brad Wilson, highlighted just that fact in his Jan. 5 keynote speech at the N.C. Economic Forecast Forum in Durham. He started with a history lesson: When North Carolina was considered an economic backwater just after World War II, the state’s leaders got together to focus on improving the health of all North Carolinians.
“The idea that it’s all up to you — that we all have a role to play — is as relevant today as it was 70 years ago,” he told the roughly 900 business, financial and government leaders from across the state.
Rising to the Challenge
Back then, the challenge was pretty dramatic: North Carolina had more young men rejected for military service because of poor health than any other state.
In his economic forecast, Wilson talked about how the state tackled the problem by creating the “Good Health Plan” in the 1940s, establishing a four-year medical school program at UNC and building N.C. Memorial Hospital.
Since then our state’s collective health has certainly improved in terms of things like malnutrition and polio. But we still have a long way to go, whether it’s combating obesity and diabetes or figuring out how to curtail rising health care costs.
Where to Focus in 2015
That same type of resolve is needed again today. Wilson asked the assembled leaders to get involved in meeting the health care challenges we face now, starting with these three goals for 2015:
- Live a healthy lifestyle and encourage the employees in your businesses to do the same. “The formula is simple, but it’s not easy: Eat less and exercise more. Encourage your employees to do the same. Make it easier for them to do so.”
- Push for a North Carolina solution that improves the state’s Medicaid program of providing health care to low-income residents. The General Assembly’s decision not to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid has been the subject of some intense political debate. Wilson, a supporter of Medicaid expansion, said there is both an economic and a moral imperative to find a way to offer assistance to those who need it.
- Become a true consumer of health care. BCBSNC is equipping all North Carolinians with a new online resource that helps them know what more then 1,200 medical procedures cost at various hospitals and facilities in the state.
“Many of us in health care are working to place consumers at the center of health care. When you engage as a consumer and seek the highest quality care and the best value, you will help yourself by helping address costs. It’s all up to you.”
Meeting these goals will put North Carolina’s health care system on a better path, Wilson said. “When we decide that it is up to us to truly transform health care, that’s when meaningful change will occur.”