Obama's meeting with business leaders spotlights innovation to boost health, cut costs

Innovation became the buzzword as President Barack Obama met Tuesday with chief executives of business, unions and government to talk about the private sector's role in encouraging health.

The meeting followed Obama's Monday meeting with key healthcare industry players – insurance companies and professional associations – who pledged to cut $2 trillion in healthcare costs over a decade.

Both meetings spotlighted the runaway costs of healthcare and suggested that information technology could help rein in the costs.

Tuesday's meeting included Steve Burd of Safeway; Cecily Hall of Microsoft; Jerry Reeves, of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers' Union's welfare fund; White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel; OMB Director Peter Orszag; Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president; Bill Weldon of Johnson & Johnson; Murray Martin of Pitney Bowes; Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House director of health reform; Larry Summers, director of the White House economic council; Alvin Jackson of the Ohio Department of Health; and Sally Jewel of REI.

Obama said the meeting was scheduled to collect stories and ``best practices'' from health-aware employers and use this data to inform ``the healthcare reform discussions that take place here in Washington.'' He noted that some employers provide incentives to encourage employees to stop smoking or lose weight or work out.

"If we can do that in individual companies, there's no reason why we can't do that for a country as a whole," he said.

According to a White House statement, "The president hopes that by encouraging more employers to adopt similar programs, we can improve the productivity of our workforce, delay or avoid many of the complications of chronic diseases and slow medical cost growth."

The innovations included monitoring chronic conditions, providing doctors in the workplace, online health management programs, health clinics, fitness centers and preventive screenings.

The White House provided summaries of workforce innovations discussed at the meeting.

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