Posted: Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010
It’s not often you hear a doctor call for revolution.
But that’s the word Dr. Russell Greenfield used when talking to doctors and alternative medicine practitioners who meet monthly to build relationships.
Greenfield’s goal is to push health professionals to focus more on health than disease.
Estimates are that 70 percent of chronic disease could be prevented with better diet and lifestyle choices, he said.
Unfortunately, the recent health reform debate was more about health insurance than health-care delivery.
Greenfield, a former emergency medicine doctor at Presbyterian Hospital Matthews, was the first of about a dozen Charlotte-area doctors to complete Dr. Andrew Weil’s integrative medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona.
He returned to Charlotte in 2001 and is working to get the medical establishment to open up to the world of alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and massage therapy.
Put simply, his idea is to threaten the insurance industry’s bottom line.
“I’m no expert in insurance,” Greenfield said. “And I know there are holes in this argument. But the only way to get institutions to act is if they feel a perceived threat…
“Our health-care system is driving us to the economic brink,” he said. “Part of the answer has to be to focus on prevention…But there’s no reimbursement for prevention… Something has to change….What if the people stood up and realized our power?”
And how do we do that?
Greenfield suggests that corporations try a pilot project in which they encourage healthy employees to choose catastrophic insurance with higher deductibles – and lower premiums – than typical plans.
Corporations would also provide intensive wellness programs, offering employees multiple visits with practitioners – such as nutritionists, fitness instructors and stress management counselors – who could help them stay healthy.
The payoff for employees is having more money in their pockets and staying well.
The payoff for the corporation is significant cost savings and healthier workers.
Companies could even share some of the savings with employees – “a little health bonus” – at the end of the year.
The downside is that if employees get sick, they could get stuck with higher-than-expected costs. Greenfield suggests employers could set aside some cost-savings to help those who get sick unexpectedly.
If healthy people – who usually pay lots of money for insurance without getting much in return – pay less, insurers won’t have as much money to cover claims from sick people.
Pressure would build, Greenfield said. “Major players would be forced to sit down and create a system that reimburses for prevention.”
Greenfield’s plan is not for people who are already sick and need good insurance. But he’d like to shake things up.
Although not a member of the tea party, Greenfield said its rapid rise “shows that when people come together, we can create some change. The status quo is unacceptable, and everyone knows it.”
Karen Garloch: 704-358-5078; firstname.lastname@example.org; garlochblogspot.com.
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