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Updated 8:00 AM March 9, 2009
 

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HealthSense offers tips for managing rising health care costs

The headlines are full of stories about the increasing costs of health care, government discussions about health care reform, and the like. In less than a decade, these rising costs are predicted to account for one in every five dollars spent in the United States, according to the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Although the University has been able to keep its costs from rising as fast as some other employers, they continue to escalate — affecting the University and employees alike, U-M leaders say.

Raising awareness about costs and offering solutions for how to minimize them is the focus of a new program that seeks to help faculty and staff become part of the solution.

“HealthSense: making sense of the national challenge—Doing our part one person at a time,” began with a series of Record articles in May, and now moves forward with a robust Web site that offers information on how members of the campus community and others can help impact costs, often with relatively simple steps. The site is healthsense.umich.edu.

“Truly building a culture of health takes all of us working together. Part of that is understanding the trends, issues and challenges of managing health care costs,” says Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources. “The HealthSense site explores the issues at the national and University levels, but most importantly focuses on practical information we can use individually to manage the challenge and get the best return on the dollars we invest in our health.”

The site gives money-saving tips to how to be a more prudent purchaser of health care products and services and seeks to keep the campus community aware of the issues as well as offering practical advice for meeting the challenge.

Specific features of the site include a section on national trends that provides news articles, statistics and public policy discussions that set the stage for the problem faced by U-M and other employers.

The University section highlights several programs U-M has put in place to address rising costs, including the numerous MHealthy programs, the U-M Center for Value-Based Insurance Design, the Benefits Stewardship Web site, and the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, among others.

A “Manage Your Costs” portion of the site is where faculty and staff will find information on how they can impact costs — from choosing the right health plan from the variety offered at open enrollment, to using more generic medications to seeking the right kind of care for an illness.

Among the suggestions under a category called prevention:
• Get regular checkups and screenings;
• Keep up to date on vaccinations;
• Practice healthy living by eating well, maintaining weight, avoiding smoking, getting exercise, and protecting skin and eyes from the sun;
• Wash hands, a simple practice that can minimize the risk of colds and flu;
• Handle health problems early, as it costs more to treat an illness that has been lingering and getting progressively worse; and
• Understand health risks that are factors of age, lifestyle and heredity. MHealthy Wellness Assessments are currently being offered to help assess employee health risks (visit mhealthy.umich.edu)

The site also addresses the savings from choosing the health coverage best suited to needs and using physicians that are part of that plan. It also offers tips on how to save on the cost of medications, including choosing generics, purchasing options, and programs that allow pill splitting of certain medications that are cheaper per use when a larger dosage is cut in half.

A final section lists numerous resources that offer information on health and wellness trends, tips and tools.

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