Consumerism is key to health care reform

No one in its path was spared from the devastation when hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of Louisiana in 2005.

Jane Cooper, founder, president and chief executive officer of Patient Care, had formed her business in New Orleans in August 2001 and had gained a lot of interest around the country as a company that people could look to for help when navigating the health care system.

Cooper has more than 25 years of experience in the health care industry and has consulted nationally with various entities on health care issues and published articles on the industry.

She previously served as the CEO of Community Physicians Network in Madison, where she led a financial turnaround of the regional Independent Physician’s Association (IPA).

However, Katrina literally destroyed Cooper’s New Orleans business, and she fled back to Milwaukee with her laptop computer, her cell phone and her daily planner. Most of the company’s client files and information were lost during the storm.

“Milwaukee was the choice that I made because we had customers like Briggs and Stratton here. We had partners like Hays Companies here, I had a couple of investors in the area, and I knew that I could call on those people, and they would go out of their way to help,” Cooper said. “There was no time for disaster recovery. I didn’t have anything from the company left.”

With some assistance from real estate developer and philanthropist Joseph Zilber, Cooper relocated her company to Milwaukee, where the firm has grown to have about 40 employees at its headquarters at 633 W. Wisconsin Ave.

“Relocating here was a good decision both personally and in terms of I needed a support system. Plus the company has been doing really well here,” she said.

Patient Care’s revenues have tripled since the firm moved to Milwaukee, Cooper said.

Cooper has become an acknowledged expert on the health care industry, as she is quoted in national publications and has been interviewed on national newscasts.

Patient Care provides services to more then 500,000 members across the country. Some of the company’s notable local clients include Briggs & Stratton Corp., Midwest Airlines, Assurant Health Inc., Bucyrus International Inc., Badger Meter Inc. and Harley-Davidson Inc.

Companies pay Patient Care to provide their employees with cost and quality comparisons for various medical procedures at local hospitals. For example, an employee who needs surgery can call Patient Care, which then does the research and provides the costs and the success rates for that surgery at local hospitals. The employee can then make a more informed choice about where to have the procedure performed.

In other words, the employee becomes more like a consumer of health care, and employers also benefit from the reduced costs.

“The focus nationally on health care reform is going to mean changes for everybody in 2009,” she said. “From our vantage point at Patient Care, we think that Milwaukee is ahead of most parts of the country in terms of looking at strategies and being willing to implement new things.”

The Milwaukee area’s relatively high health care costs are forcing some changes in the local delivery of care, Cooper said.

“There is also a very rich history of intellectual work and research in the Milwaukee area that translates well into health care and insurance,” she added.

Patient Care also has advocates who employees can call for questions related to their claims, billing problems and eligibility issues.

“We service all types of industry, manufacturing, school systems, county governments. We like to think that everyone can use our services,” Cooper said.

“The growing transparency of cost and quality information is going to impact all constituents of the health care industry in 2009,” Cooper said. 

According to Cooper, the increase in deductibles is going to force consumers to evaluate more medical procedures and decide where and how to spend their money.

“Insurance companies and providers are going to face more challenges when it comes to collecting that money from the consumer,” she said. “It was a lot easier to collect when (the patient) owed $10.”

Because of that increased difficulty, accountability is also going to be a factor in 2009, she said.

“Insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid are starting to, and will continue to look more closely at what they are actually paying for,” Cooper said. “So, if you are a physician, do your diabetic patients get screened? And are you paying attention to outcomes and those sorts of things?”

Employers also will take a more proactive role in the costs of their health care plans, Cooper said. Lifestyle will start to impact the ability to even obtain health care coverage, she said.

“Employers are beginning to make it their business to make sure that people that work for them are as healthy as possible,” Cooper said. “That is a huge change from where we were 10 years ago.”

The lack of available capital for financing projects, that is having such a negative impact on so many other industries in the economy will also play a role in the health care industry Cooper said.

“For insurance companies and providers the problem of access to capital, and the fact that they won’t be able to finance as easily endless amounts of growth and expansion might be a short term problem but might also be a long term positive thing,” Cooper said.

Overall, the economy will force challenges and change upon all of players in the health care industry, including providers, patients and insurance companies, Cooper said.

“I think the rate of change and the types of change in 2009 are going to be far greater then we’ve ever seen before,” she said.

Jane Cooper

President and CEO, Patient Care

Education: Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts at Augustana College; master’s degree with an emphasis on speech and communication at Western Illinois University.

Address: 633 W. Wisconsin Ave., Suite 1310

Web site:


Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display