The Chamber's healthcare forum to focus on the ROI of benefits

Want a quick tour of the progress of healthcare discussion in the United States during the past few years? Just take a look at the focus of the annual Chamber Healthcare Forum events in Reno:

Four years ago, the first healthcare forum focused on the threat posed to company's profits by rapidly rising health-benefits costs. The next year, participants heard about proposals under debate by federal lawmakers, and in 2010 they learned what the Obama Administration's health plan would mean for their companies.

This year, the forum is all about finding a return on investment in healthcare dollars, says Sarah Sommers, a partner in Solutions at Work, a Reno human-resources consulting firm and volunteer chair of healthcare committee of the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce.

"The pennies have to be stretched further today," Sommers says. "Our focus is finding the return on investment of the benefit. Is your company getting the best bang for that stretched-out penny?"

The forum, which is expected to draw more than 300, runs from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Atlantis Casino Resort Spa. It's sponsored by The Chamber, the group that results from the merger of the Reno-Sparks Chamber of commerce and the Northern Nevada Chamber of Commerce.

Healthcare remains a vital issue for business owners and managers, as well as the community at large, says Len Stevens, executive director of The Chamber.

"A business leaders and professionals, we must work hard to improve the health and overall well-being of our region," he said.

He said the forum's organizers worked to find local and national speakers who can provide practical information that managers can put to work. One theme, for instance, will education of employees about effective healthcare utilization.

Sommers said, too, the organizers want to begin educating businesspeople about the changes in health benefits that are beginning to take effect as the result of federal reform.

Speakers will include:

* Don Kowitz, president of Saint Mary's Health Plans, who will provide an overview of insurance exchanges in Nevada, one of the cornerstones of the federal healthcare reforms in the state.

* Dick Castner of U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He'll review the status of healthcare legislation and discuss information exchanges.

* Jim Miller, the chief executive officer of Renown Health, who will show participants how to find the return on investment in their benefits plans.

* Chip Rattigan, executive director of Saint Mary's Medical Group, who will show how to educate employees to maximize their benefit plans.

* Leah Steckline of Northern Nevada Medical Center. She'll discuss corporate health awareness.

* Kirk Gillis, vice president of workers' compensation at Renown Health. He'll review programs to reduce worker's compensation injuries as well as occupational workplace safety efforts.

* Curt Howell, who heads Humana's commercial operations in Nevada. He'll discuss the return on investment of workplace wellness program.

Registration is required before the event through or by calling 337-3030. Cost is $30 for members of The Chamber and members of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, $40 for non-members and $25 for fulltime students and nurses.

Sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities are available. Call the chamber at 337-3030 for details.


Healthiest places to work

The inaugural "Healthiest Places to Work Awards" will be announced at the end of the fourth annual Healthcare Forum.

The awards will recognize northern Nevada businesses that have implemented strategies targeted at keeping their employees healthy.

Categories include Work-Life Balance, Wellness Program and Healthy Lifestyles.

A survey of workers at nominated companies helped determine winners.


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