The University Record, January 28, 1998

U joins statewide coalition to help fight rising health care costs

From the Benefits Office

Health care cost increases continue to represent a national problem that requires local solutions. The U-M and Michigan's 12 other public universities have formed the Michigan Universities Coalition on Health (MUCH), a value-based purchasing coalition that will look for alternatives to curb excessive increases in the cost of health care benefits plans and services. MUCH seeks to bring down the costs associated with health care that limit the ability to contain tuition cost increases.

"The mission of the new coalition is to improve the value of health care benefit plans and services through better quality and lower costs for the Michigan public universities, their employees, students, retirees and dependents," says Marty Eichstadt, Benefits Office director and a member of the MUCH executive board.

"We have seen significant stabilization of health care costs in recent years, but regrettably health care costs continue to increase faster than the national economy. It is a cost that we must get under control so that we can continue our commitment to a quality and affordable education."

Participation in the health purchasing coalition will give the U-M access to networks of information and opportunities to limit negative effects of health care cost increases. "MUCH will participate with the 10 local coalitions already established in Michigan as well as many more that participate in the National Business Coalition on Health," Eichstadt says. "These coalitions already have been involved with producing health care benchmarking studies that analyze health care access, quality and cost. Some members of the new universities coalition already are participating in local coalition activities with remarkable results."

The universities have had preliminary meetings with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) to begin mapping strategies with the dominant health insurance company in Michigan that will assist the coalition members. Coalition members also will work with health insurance plans, hospitals, physicians and other providers of care to define collaborative initiatives that will improve access, cost and quality at the local level.

The public universities represent one of the largest employer groups in Michigan. As a group, they can play an important role in bringing about market-driven health care reform by holding the health care delivery system accountable for the value of health care in each community throughout Michigan.