OPINION: Health care costs take too big of a bite out of profits

Since the beginning of the 20th century, innovation in business and technology has been done the Texas way. The oil and gas industry led an industrial boom in the early 1900s, followed by landmark breakthroughs in medical, science and information technology. Whether it was miraculous heart treatment techniques by Dr. Michael Debakey, or Michael Dell creating a computer empire in his dorm room, Texans have pioneered new industries, new thinking and new opportunities for good paying jobs.

Here in Texas, we engineer, manufacture, market and ship the best products all around the globe. And having had business travel the past few years to New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Uganda and the United Kingdom, I can tell you firsthand how the world has benefited from advances in technology. In my career, I have been dedicated to growing the Texas economy by making sure that Texans continue to innovate and export without government interference – like burdensome regulations that slow innovation, weaken the economy and threaten jobs.

Efficiencies in technologies, especially in the realms of exports and manufacturing, are too numerous to name. However, one industry still appears to lag behind considerably: health care. As you know, the cost of health care continues to be one of businesses’ and Texans’ biggest complaints. Health care costs take too big of a bite out of profits, and it’s only getting worse. We must find new ways to slow the rising cost of care, including the burden that prescription drug costs place on families, small businesses, and local government.

According to the Texas Comptroller, the State of Texas spent $42.9 billion on health care in fiscal year 2015, representing more than 40 percent of all state appropriations. From fiscal years 2011 to 2015, state health care expenditures rose by nearly 20 percent – a rate exceeding the growth of both inflation and the Texas population during the same period. This is an unsustainable trend, especially given that our state population continues to rise, and businesses continue to look to Texas to grow. I believe we must work with the health care industry to adapt, and integrate, new and innovative models, and use technology-driven insights to provide better, more personalized health outcomes. Only through collaborative, transparent and customer-driven care will Texas businesses continue to thrive and provide quality, affordable health care for their employees.

Geoffrey S. Connor, PhD.  

One way to do this is by aligning medical and specialty pharmacy incentives through closer coordination and models that reward successful patient outcomes. Specialty pharmaceuticals are great advances in how we treat some of today’s most complex and devastating conditions, but they come at a high price. Managing and lowering these costs can only be achieved through smarter use of health care data and predictive analytics, and through the comprehensive insights some companies have on our personalized health needs at every stage of life. Establishing an open infrastructure for data to be used across health care stakeholders – integrating information between all companies involved in a patient’s care – can result in optimized care for patients on an individual level that will also improve employers’ bottom lines.

There are some recent developments in the marketplace that demonstrate positive industry trends. Recently, the global health service company Cigna announced that it was acquiring Express Scripts, an integrated pharmacy company. By combining their specializations – integrated medical and wellness solutions with pharmacy management capabilities – you get a glimpse of how a company can provide better health outcomes by sharing existing knowledge and information while focusing on customers’ needs. These two companies utilize the data and insights they’ve gathered through billions of customer interactions every year to provide the lowest cost trends in their respective sectors, and have a good track record of delivering value for their customers.

Combinations of innovative companies have the potential to share their insights more fully, lower costs, make timely interventions to save lives, and deliver the quality care that Texans expect, and need. As an innovator and a Texan, I welcome opportunities to offer greater choice and access not only to health care customers but to employers across our state as well. Let’s make sure the hardworking people of Texas have access to affordable, personalized care – and to make that happen, let’s keep innovating the Texas way.

– Geoff Connor, PhD. is the former Texas Secretary of State. Based in Austin, Texas, Mr. Connor works on a daily basis as an attorney, businessman, and consultant. Mr. Connor has no affiliation or compensation from Cigna or Express Scripts.

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