Health

The tentative contract agreement that assigned a role to the United Auto Workers in managing the healthcare costs of its General Motors members was a turning point in the relationship between business and labor — and a sign of things to come in a global economy. In fact, Chrysler was seeking similar healthcare concessions in contract talks with the union. It's all about risk-sharing. VEBAs — Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Associations — will most likely make declining U.S. manufacturing industries more competitive; however, they may do little to reverse sagging U.S. union participation, according to experts at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Much of the increase in the price of healthcare in the United States can be traced back to technology advances that improve patient outcomes, but are expensive to develop and implement. Offsetting some of that expense are the savings that result from drug therapies that have replaced other, more costly treatments. In a video interview conducted in collaboration with The Communications Institute, Knowledge@W. P. Carey asked health economist Marjorie Baldwin of the W. P. Carey School of Business to analyze some of the causes of rising healthcare costs.

The healthcare system in the United States has been slowly collapsing over the past 30 years, according to Bradford Kirkman-Liff, professor of health policy and biotechnology at the W. P. Carey School of Business. In a video interview conducted in collaboration with The Communications Institute, Kirkman-Liff explores the sources of pressure on the system, including the impact of large numbers of patients who are uninsured and the cost of pharmaceuticals. The prospects for reform, however, are clouded by what Kirkman-Liff calls the divisiveness of the national discussion.

The soaring cost of prescription drugs is a major concern in the United States, but drugs in one important category — biopharmaceuticals, or drugs produced through biotechnology — actually do not cost more in the United States. Michael F. Furukawa, assistant professor in the School of Health Management and Policy at the W. P. Carey School of Business, and his co-author found that while the United States is by far the biggest user of biopharmaceuticals, the prices for these drugs in the United States are comparable to those in a broad range of countries.

In the event of a disease outbreak or bioterrorist attack, public health officials must make decisions about how to allocate finite medical resources — decisions that impact the spread of the disease and the number of lives lost. Ajay Vinze and Raghu Santanam, both information systems professors at the W. P. Carey School of Business, wondered what might be the best way to allocate critical resources in such scenarios. They realized that, viewed from a business perspective, the public health system is actually a very large and complex supply chain — in many ways even more intricate than the highly developed supply chain of an enterprise like Wal-Mart.