It’s one of those old chestnuts you really hope happened.
As the legendary story goes, a semi-truck got stuck under an overpass bridge. The clearance was just low enough to wedge the top of the 18-wheeler into the underside concrete and grind it to a halt. For hours, authorities scratched their heads and rubbed their chins and diverted traffic and contacted the best and brightest engineers.
While the bone fide geniuses were devising ways of removing part of the bridge or cutting off the top of the truck with a diamond blade, or actually imploding the entire truck and simply taking a loss on the cargo and machinery, a little 9-year-old girl, who was watching the whole thing from her halted car, kept tugging at her father’s trousers with an idea.
At first, the bystander father was too enthralled in the drama several car lengths ahead and didn’t pay any attention to her. But then he heard her idea and it made sense. Surely these experts had thought of this, hadn’t they? I mean, it was so obvious. Surely his 9-year-old daughter hadn’t come up with the solution that was right in front of them. Had she? But eventually, once he saw civil engineers rolling in the TNT, he raced up to the scene and let the little girl talk to the powers that be.
She told them her idea, and they all looked at each other completely stunned and embarrassed. Of course. It was so simple. All it took was someone with an open mind to figure it out.
In less than an hour, the truck was released from the underpass and on its way. And all the traffic was moving again. Nothing had to be blown up or severed or destroyed or harmed in any way. You see all they ever had to do was one thing: let air out of the tires. It was genius. It was simple. And it didn’t cost a thing.
That scenario could’ve turned into a months-long public works program. It could’ve required dozens of strong backs and hundreds of man hours, cutting through concrete and steel. It could’ve put people in extreme danger and even forced the city or state to tear down the entire bridge and re-build it with higher clearance, requiring new grading above it and new elevation surveys. That process might have taken years to complete. In the meantime, a new detour would’ve been needed and alternate routes put in place.
People’s lives would change and their commutes would be extended. An entire ecosystem might’ve been deconstructed because of one overreaction to a problem that looked daunting…but actually wasn’t.
In the state of Oregon, a small miracle is taking place.
A 450 person software company is reaping the benefits of some simple, obvious fixes. While political candidates are scratching their heads and making grand declarations and devising new, tectonic-plate-shifting plans to upend the American healthcare system…again (remember when we did this nine years ago?), an unassuming surgical nurse may be bringing a revolution to healthcare, one patient at a time.
Rhonda Nerenberg was listening to her husband grapple with the near impossible challenges facing his company, regarding healthcare compliance. In her husband Billy’s own words …
“When I took the reins four years ago, one of the biggest problems we had was our medical insurance premiums. They were already through the roof and were going to be raised 25% yet again. Insurance companies work on utilization rates and ours was apparently 173%, so we were basically out of luck. I did a national search to find someone who could help and found nothing useful. My wife suggested I start a wellness program. In my experience, they are next to useless and so I just laughed and said no. She just smiled at me and said she would design one with an onsite clinic, nutrition education, insurance advocacy and tie them together with behavioral coaching. She said if it worked, it would lower our utilization rates and if not, it wouldn’t cost us much and we would at least be trying something. Now, almost 4 years later, our utilization rates are down 68%, employee’s out-of-pocket expenses are down 39% and she has taken us self-insured. She has reversed dozens of long-term diseases including type II Diabetes pulling people off medications, lot’s of people have stopped smoking and we’ve lost a ton of weight as an organization. This program not only measurably works, it pays for itself, all within our current broken healthcare system.”
Rhonda doesn’t just get people eating right and exercising. She doesn’t just get them to quit smoking. But, being a nurse, she also helps with consultations on when key medical tests should be done and helps to tweak certain pieces of the insurance plans to incentivize certain tests at certain times for each individual patient. She also personally consults on preventative treatments and measures that have helped a half-dozen people side-step major issues.
All of this work (and resounding success) for her husband’s company has led to her starting her own business and doing this work for corporations across the country. Corporation by corporation; individual by individual, Rhonda is showing people how to simply let the air out of the tires and get the truck rolling again.
When Republicans held power of both chambers of Congress (and the Presidency), they did not address the cracks in the American Health Care system. Every time they had the chance to fix the broken pieces (and there WERE broken pieces), they failed. Every. Single. Time. My daughter and my family were direct victims of these problems. There have been over 15 Republican healthcare reform bills. And NONE of them has ever seen the floor for a vote, much less been implemented. When it comes to the issues regarding health care, either the Republicans have been mentally inferior or they have been cowards.
On the other hand, Democrats have used healthcare as a political tool for decades. And keep in mind that every piece of your current health care – EVERY. SINGLE. PIECE – was designed by and voted into law by DEMOCRATS. If you do not like the way our current health care system works, there is only one party to blame. They were the only ones who voted for it. NO Republicans voted for it – they were too busy being mentally inferior or being cowards. And now, ALL of the Democrat candidates are coming back, a decade later, to fix what they broke in the first place.
If Rhonda’s plan could be implemented nation wide, at every corporation, and she got even close to the same success rate at each company she’s had at her husband’s company, insurers would have to lower premiums and get creative with coverage, just to stay in business. If they had to do that, they would have to pay closer attention to the details of their payouts and make those calls to medical institutions, saying, “we’re not paying $60 for an aspirin anymore.”
If that were to happen, the medical profession itself would have to become more efficient and lean. I have seen this happen personally with the music business. People ask us all the time how we can make records for 25% of what we used to make them for. The answer is WE SIMPLY HAVE TO. The market forced us to.
THIS is how costs actually come down naturally, in a market driven way. Not by mandate or quota. But by incentives and market pressures.
In this political football game, where life and death is literally on the line, stories like Rhonda’s Remedy give me hope. Maybe the answer to our perpetual healthcare question is not in politics or who you vote for. Maybe it’s in the mind of someone who sees things a little differently; someone who sees the whole truck…and not just the top of it.
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