Photo: Isaac ArjonillaSelf-insuring requires a leap of faith, but the rewards are worth it, Harris Rosen says.
A healthier approach: Hotelier Harris Rosen makes health care a priority
Hotelier Harris Rosen’s venture into health care is still reaping rewards.
On June 24, 1974, Harris Rosen bought a 256-room Quality Inn along Orlando’s International Drive tourist corridor — the beachhead from which Rosen would build a small empire that today includes nine hotels around Orlando with 6,694 rooms catering to a mix of theme-park tourists and convention-bound business travelers.
Along the way, Rosen became an innovator in health care. Since 1991, Rosen Hotels & Resorts has been self-insuring. Rosen couldn’t understand why his health-care costs were rising so quickly and discovered that his insurer was earning a $250,000 annual profit on his company’s $400,000 in annual premiums. So the company spent $30,000 to turn an old accounting office into a health clinic, hired a doctor to see employees 20 hours a week and negotiated deals directly with Florida Hospital and Walgreens for services and medications.
The in-house plan drove down costs for employees, most of whom are lowwage service workers like housekeepers, offering doctor visits with no co-pays or deductibles, fully covered specialist services and prescription drugs that cost, at most, a $3 co-pay. And it drove down costs for the company, too; Rosen says his health-care costs dropped by two-thirds in the first year alone, from $2,223 to $745 per covered employee.
The health plan has continued to expand and add services over time. It now provides chiropractic services and physical therapy sessions at its wellness center, which were initially available three half-days each week but today are available five full days a week. Six years ago, the company moved its 3,000-sq.-ft. clinic into a custom-built, 12,000-sq.-ft. Rosen Medical Center where about the only outpatient services it can’t provide are CT scans and MRIs. (A CT scanner, which can cost upward of $2 million, would have cost more than the wellness center itself.) The Rosen Medical Center staff now includes five doctors, three nurse practitoners and two physician assistants and support staff.
Rosen says his health plan is built around a simple premise: “If you keep people healthy, you reduce your healthcare costs.”
The goal is to identify and then eliminate, or at least reduce, every barrier preventing employees from seeking care. That means bringing as many services on site as possible. Employees can often get same-day appointments, and they get free transportation from every worksite and stay on the clock when they visit the medical center. Deeper relationships develop between patients and clinic staff, helping to ensure that patients follow through with treatments. (Rosen’s physicians spend 30 minutes with each patient, more than twice as long as the average doctor-patient encounter.)
And, of course, it means keeping costs for employees as low as possible so they can actually afford the services. The majority of Rosen’s employees now pay a little less than $850 a year for individual medical, dental and vision coverage — just under $2,600 a year for family coverage — with no deductible or co-insurance. There are no co-pays for annual physicals and 90% of prescription drugs, $5 co-pays for primary care and $20 copays for specialist visits. Employees pay $750 for their first hospital admission in a year and $750 for the second. That’s it.
“We focus on five things: Access, quality, service, cost and innovation — in that order,” says Kenneth A. Aldridge Jr., the medical center’s director of health services. RosenCare today covers 5,700 employees and dependents.
The system has been so successful that, earlier this year, Rosen and his company won three awards from the World Health Care Congress, including a pair of lifetime achievement awards for health benefits innovation and public leadership for Rosen himself.
Rosen’s health-care costs have climbed over the years — but so have his savings. The company says it currently spends about $5,500 per covered employee, which is less than half the national average. And that’s despite working with a predominantly high-risk pool of lowincome workers, many of whom come from impoverished Caribbean and Latin American countries that’s more akin to a Medicaid population.
The savings come, in large part, from the fact that Rosen’s employees get so much more preventive care. Roughly 85% of Rosen employees with hypertension have it controlled, compared to a national average under 50%. Almost all of female Rosen employees age 40 and up are now getting annual mammograms, compared to less than 40% nationwide.