Friday July 18, 2003

Coalition Studies Ways to Reduce Cost of Health Care in Oswego County

Group's goal is to find out why health care is so expensive and what can be done to reduce it, improve efficiency, quality and access.

    The swiftly rising cost of being sick in Oswego County is the focus of a community-wide coalition composed of public officials, hospital representatives, and members of the health insurance industry.

    Collene Dare Alexander of the Rural Health Network of Oswego County said the group was formed after Ronald Waer, former publisher of The Palladium-Times newspaper, received notification that the company?s insurance premiums were going to be increased significantly. Waer wanted to know why this situation was occurring and what could be done about it. Alexander agreed: ?I thought it was time to look into the matter.?

    Alexander said that at the first coalition meeting attendees voiced about 50 areas of concern but by the second session that list had narrowed to three: consumer education, physician involvement and health insurance options.

    Consumer education, explained Alexander, affects everyone, even those in the field of medicine. It is important to know how patients feel about physicians in order to keep their business in Oswego County. The goal is to make patients want to spend their medical dollars in the local economy. Dissatisfaction with the doctor is a primary reason for seeking treatment elsewhere.

    Alexander said that consumer education was very important because today, thanks to mass advertising, patients are well-informed about brand names and have few qualms about demanding them even when a generic form of the same drug is as effective and less costly.

    Consumers also need to be educated, said Alexander, about the high cost of emergency rooms. She said that Oswego County was fortunate to have numerous health centers, several of which offer ?off hour? services. The care these clinics provide comes with a less expensive price tag.

    Lastly, consumers need to be educated on the need for good nutrition and proper exercise to reduce their risk of catastrophic medical events.

    Dr. Michael Nupuf has acted as chair of the coalition meetings, said Alexander. He ?has been instrumental in the process of getting physicians involved. If physicians are not involved, you?re missing an important piece? of the equation, she said.

    Local resident Dan Mather has agreed to head the health product study group. According to Alexander, the members of this sub-committee will study the feasibility of developing a health insurance product for the county, asking questions such as who will be able to purchase it, what physicians will participate, what facilities will be involved.

    Jim Smith regional vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of CNY (Excellus) has attended the forums, said Alexander, and plans to report on a program developed in cooperation with Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown.

    To recruit members for the proposed sub-committees, Alexander said the coalition planned to use word of mouth, flyers sent to employers, and appeals to faith-based, civic and social organizations, and schools. ?We want as many [participants] as possible,? Alexander said.

    Alexander said that additional factors in high cost of health were discussed, including pharmaceuticals, the Medicaid population, and economic development in the region. She said that it was imperative to provide jobs for the area?s unemployed if the county expected them to get off the Medicaid rolls. She suggested working with the economic development agencies to show prospective businesspeople ?how great Oswego County is.?

    Alexander said one area which should be explored was the way the coalition can step forward to introduce the community to prospective employers. She pointed to Cayuga Community College?s introduction of a program to train registered nurses as an example of how the area is working to recruit and retain nursing professionals. Said Alexander: ?We can?t do everything so what can we do in the short term to fix the problem??

    ?We want to reduce the cost of health care in Oswego County. No one can continue to pay premiums which rise in double digits each year. We hope to improve efficiency, quality, and access. No one should be threatened,? she said.

    Alexander acknowledged that change was inevitable: ?That?s why it?s imperative for everyone to get involved.? She said the group had not identified the time required to achieve the goal.

    As for the three target areas, Alexander said the education sub-committee should be able to begin its work within six months. The physician involvement group ?should start very soon.? She conceded that the group investigating the health insurance option may finally decide that it is not feasible. Still, the study must be carried out and, if doable, marketed to the community.

    The other members of the coalition are: Morris Sorbello, chair, Oswego County Legislature; Fran Lanigan, interim Health and Human Services commissioner; Dennis Casey, executive director, A. L. Lee Memorial Hospital, Fulton; Brian Breneman, community relations director, A. L. Lee Memorial Hospital; John Gosek, mayor of Oswego; Michael Stafford, mayor of Fulton; Corte Spencer, administrator, Oswego Hospital; Robert McKinstry, operations, Oswego Hospital; Jeff Coakley, director of marketing and community relations, Oswego Hospital; Terry Gorman, chief executive officer, St. Luke?s; Michael Treadwell, executive director, Operation Oswego; Jan Resnick, Oswego County Opportunities; Ellen Holst, director, Health Division, OCO; Margaret DeLorenzo, practice manager, OCO; Marianne Hicks, regional community director, BlueCross/BlueShield of CNY (Excellus).

    Private individuals not affiliated with any group are encouraged to get involved. They may call Alexander at 315-343-2344 or e-mail her at

Oswego County Business Magazine
Issue 164

Issue 164
October/November 2019

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