February 27, 2019

Employers can help workers access health care

PHOTO | New Haven Biz
PHOTO | New Haven Biz
Panelists (l-r) Ken Lalime of the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut, Mark Abraham of DataHaven, and Darin Latimore, MD of the Yale School of Medicine.

Employers can help their employees attain better access to health care and help overcome disparities that result from race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age and other differences.

That was the message of a panel discussion on "Exploring Health Disparities and the Impact to Your Business," presented Wednesday morning by the Health Care Council of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate, the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce. The event, attended by about 40 people, took place at ACES/Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven.

Panel moderator Jennifer Heath, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater New Haven, defined the subject of the discussion as "avoidable differences in health-care access and delivery resulting from social disadvantages."

An example of such a disparity, according to panelist Ken Lalime, CEO of the Community Health Association of Connecticut, might be two patients with diabetes — one of whom is homeless. "The cost of delivering care to that homeless patient is going to be much higher than to the patient who goes to the doctor four times a year," Lalime said.

"Societal" attitudes about different groups extends to health-care professionals themselves, said Darin Latimore, MD, deputy dean and chief diversity officer at the Yale School of Medicine.

"[Individual] health-care providers believe they treat all people and all patients fairly, but actually they [as a group] have the exact same biases as society," Latimore said. "Our views of patients and different patient groups inevitably affects the treatments we prescribe to them."

Mark Abraham, executive director at DataHaven, noted that so-called Millennial workers now comprise 40 percent of the U.S. workforce, and that roughly half of that subset of workers is non-white. Between white and non-white populations there exit "major differences in both mental and physical health," Abraham said. An example is the much higher rate of both hypertension and diabetes onset in the African-American population, he added.

What can companies do to help their workers access the care they need? Lalime said employers should ask potential insurance carriers what percentage of their providers (i.e., doctors) are in community health centers or accessible by city bus routes. He added that HR managers should be thorough about educating employees about what benefits are available to them under company-sponsored health-care insurance.

Heath added that employers can also make employees better aware of community health resources such as United Way 211, which helps users connect to available resources from health care to utility assistance to food pantries to housing assistance.

Finally, Latimore cited the cost of medical education as an economic driver of the health-delivery system.

"Having [an MD] come out of med school with $250,000 in debt is incompatible with taking care of the most vulnerable in our society," Latimore said.

"I have never met a starving doctor," he added.

Contact Michael C. Bingham at mbingham@newhavenbiz.com

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