A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

At a time when the national discussion is on out-of-control health care costs, the cardiovascular care center in southeastern Michigan reduced its health care costs per employee by 13 percent from 2005 to 2009.

Dr. Robert Steele, a founding shareholder of Michigan Heart, PC who serves as the chair of the finance committee and benefits committee, said the business was one example of how to control employer costs without government intervention.

They did it by going to a high deductible plan and increasing employee contributions, but still offering a more competitive benefits package than the  University of Michigan plan, Steele said.

The recently passed federal healthcare reform bill backed by President Barack Obama will end the plan, Steele says.

"It is bad for the taxpayers, it's bad for the employee," Steele said. "It's not necessarily great for the business because people really like our plan. It gives us a competitive advantage with this plan."

Steele is a cardiologist from Superior Township. He is challenging U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, for the U.S. 15th Congressional District seat. Steele is running as a Republican. Jack Lynch is also running in that race as a Republican.

The cardiologist went around the state talking to groups about the problems that the federal health care bill would mean to employees.

By 2016, Steele said Michigan Heart PC's plan will no longer be allowed under the new health care reform law.

Instead, the government will dictate loaded policies that will cover things some people may not want or need.

Steele tells a story about a colleague who lived in Michigan whose college-aged daughter was going to college in Massachusetts.

That Eastern state has a law that mandates nearly every person have health care coverage with a specified minimum amount of coverage. Steele said the co-ed's choices were an $850 a month plan offered in Massachusetts or a high-deductible barebones policy from Michigan for $55 a month.

Steele said that choice highlights the problems with the federal healthcare reform bill backed by Obama.

At Michigan Heart PC, while employer costs went down, Steele said it was done without huge costs to employees.

By going with a high deductible plan, Steele said there was an $8,000 a year per-employee reduction in premiums due by the employer. Steele said Michigan Heart PC was able to take some of that $8,000 reduction in premium costs and offer it back to the employee to help cover costs.

Employees, who Steele said have a $1,000 deductible, saw their costs rise from $300,000 in 2005 to $365,000 in 2009, a 5.25 percent increase every year.

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