North Notes
Spokane North Rotary Club Bulletin
January 23, 2017
          Our men of Rotary: It will be the “Brad and Chad Show” Friday, Feb. 3 as the Valley Rotary hosts its 6th annual “beef-cake” fashion fund raiser.  Throwing caution – and clothes?  -- to the wind, past president Brad Stark and president-elect Chad Haverkamp have bravely volunteered their “model” behavior to represent Spokane-North at the big event.  To cheer them on, Michelle Fossum has reserved a table for club members and guests.  She said three seats remain to be sold at $50 each.  The event begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Mirabeau Park Hotel.
          Think spring: Speakers for the District 5080 Conference, May 12-14, in Nakusp, British Columbia, will include a commercial pilot who was a Rotary exchange student, a Rhodes scholar, and a speaker on the “End Polio Now” program.  An “apple pie competition,” local area tours, golf and nearby hot springs also are available to attendees and guests.
More health care changes?  Wait a second
          Speaker Neil Muller, a veteran in dealing with company health care rates and policies, joked that he was going to prepare a PowerPoint presentation the morning of his talk, but it would have been outdated by lunchtime.
          Muller, vice president of sales for Bell-Anderson Insurance, ably described the health care industry turmoil for the club Jan. 23.
          “The health care field is literally changing by the day, including weekends,” he said.
          Muller apologized for missing a September lunch talk date, citing “the 48-hour flu,” but waiting was better as a new president and Congress start to make good on their campaign pledges to repeal Affordable Care Act provisions.
          A Chehalis, Wash., native, Muller has sold group health insurance since 2001.
          In his historical perspective on health care locally he noted the growing number of mergers and acquisitions, including the sale and re-sale (for $425 million) of Deaconess Medical Center, Valley Hospital and the Rockwood Clinics from Tennessee-based Community Health Systems then to Tacoma-based MultiCare, Kaiser Health’s purchase of Group Health, Inland Imaging’s merger with Missoula Radiology and Providence Health & Services dramatic growth.
          “Providence is getting so large that in the next three to five years they may set up their own health network,” Muller said.  He added: “They may have so much clout they may drive down costs (to companies and individuals), but we may lose the ability to choose health care plans.”
          He said Premera Blue Cross felt that dynamic last year and other carriers, including Asuris Healthcare and Regence Blue Shield, may be impacted next.
          Demographic changes, especially the aging population, are driving industry imbalances, Muller said.
       The burgeoning retirements of “baby boomers” (born from 1946-1964) are tipping the scales of financing health care in early retirement and Medicare years.  And older folks spend far more on health issues than the “millennials” and other younger age group sectors that help pay into the system, he said.
          And another driver of change is the concept of “risk corridors, which deal with the percentage of the population that is unhealthy.  It is like (real estate) redlining, Muller said.
          Questions from club members helped drive the discussion.  Art Rudd asked about losing diagnostic practices, such as the funding to get second opinions on health issues.  Nancy Hanson asked, amid the swirl of corporate changes, “what’s in it for me, are there any benefits to individual patients?”  And Lenore Romney asked “exactly, what is a group?”  She said her 14-employee accounting firm has to scramble to find funds to help pay surging health plan costs.
          Muller said he is just glad to present a firm with a 13.5 per cent annual increase in health care, “because yesterday it was 25 percent” for another firm.”
          All over town, as throughout the country, patients, doctors, employers and all others involved have more questions than answers.
          Amid the scramble, some firms, like Starbucks, look to self-insure health care plans, Muller said.
          He said some of the pressing concerns await confirmation of President Trump’s new Health and Human Services Secretary, former Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia.  Price, an orthopedic surgeon and six-term congressman, has worked hard to scrap the ACA or “Obama-care.”
          But Trump, using his executive authority pen as more of an eraser, already has started to undo some ACA provisions.
          Muller, citing the ideas of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he expects to see more association networks, like builders, group together for health care, more use of health-care savings accounts for individuals, fewer mandates for employers and use of tax credits rather than fines to encourage coverage and plan participation.
          But who knows?  Obviously, this is all subject to change.
Speaker Neil Muller displayed books,  presented in his name, to the
Holmes Elementary School library. The books replace the club’s longtime speaker gifts of a Rotary pen.
The bulletin producers:
Bulletin editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
Photo: Eric Johnson
Program coordinator: Brad Stark