Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wal-Mart's epiphany

So Wal-Mart is expanding health coverage to more of it's employees -- at least according to a story in today's New York Times. What caught my attention was the description of how they've shifted their view on health benefits -- what were once seen as pure costs are now seen as investments in the work force to improve "presenteeism" and absenteeism and thereby increase overall productivity.

Personally, I'd like to see us get rid of employer-sponsored health insurance, but I recognize that one positive aspect of it is that employers can instill market principles into health care delivery by acting as "smart buyers" of health care services on behalf of their employees. The fact that it's taken Wal-Mart, of all companies, this long to come to the realization that investing in one of their key factors of production just might improve productivity suggests that this "smart buyer" role may not be as compelling as we'd like to think. Maybe Wal-Mart's epiphany will accelerate this type of thinking among other employers.

Now, if we could just get Wal-Mart to invest in technology upgrades for their health care delivery supply chain, we might make better progress on the health IT front.....

No comments: