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Health care conference focuses on cost and its effect

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Cost was the buzzword of the day for the health care community as it discussed the issues facing providers, policy-makers and hospitals around the state.

“We are looking for value, which is quality over cost,” said Kenneth Sable, president of the Jersey Shore University Medical Center. “We spend more per capita in this country than in the entire world and we don’t have the results to show for it. Obviously, we are not efficient, we are not doing something right.”

A gathering of a few hundred hosted by the New Jersey Association of Health Insurance Underwriters took place Thursday in Monroe Township with industry leaders from the private and public sectors alike.

Discussions focused on the exorbitant costs of health care in the state and how it relates to the consumers, transparency of costs for all stakeholders, the cost of value and health systems shifting to accommodate a more consumer-driven strategy.

“Hospitals and health companies are moving from the bed business to wellness and health,” said Stephen Jones, president of the Robert Wood Johnson University Health System.

Jones and Sable were joined by George E. Norcross III, the chairman of the board of Cooper Health System, and Kenneth Sable, for a panel on the role of hospitals and new trends in the industry — namely patient-centered care.

“If you were not forced to buy your cable service from whomever you do, you sure as hell wouldn’t be buying from the company you are involved with,” Norcross said, likening the situation to hospital customers. “We should be a Four Seasons hotel that happens to provide world-class health care. Our patients are customers. We have to focus on customer service.”

Sable said that the customers are the definitely the focus of the health care conversation, both with the aid of technology to provide information, as well as ensuring that they are healthier and staying out of hospitals.

A provider panel featured Larry Downs, CEO of the Medical Society of New Jersey; Jeffrey LeBenger, CEO of Summit Medical Group; and Richard Miller, CEO and president of Virtua Health Systems.

The panel focused on out-of-network costs and whether or not patients’ financial health is as important as their physical health — the current struggle for balance in the industry.

“We need to protect the patient at all costs,” Miller said.

Policy-makers and those involved in health legislature spoke at the policy panel which followed, including Linda Schwimmer, the new president of the Healthcare Quality Institute.

Keynote speakers included Norcross, Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) and James Martin, CEO of the Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey.

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