A new restaurant chain is needed for health crisisOpen Letter to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Board of Directors: As your annual meeting approaches, you must resolve to bite the bullet when it comes to fighting the trends that will certainly lead to the bankruptcy of Blue Cross Blue Shield and the impairment of thousands of North Dakotans.
By: Lloyd Omdahl, Columnist, The Jamestown Sun
Open Letter to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Board of Directors:
As your annual meeting approaches, you must resolve to bite the bullet when it comes to fighting the trends that will certainly lead to the bankruptcy of Blue Cross Blue Shield and the impairment of thousands of North Dakotans.
Let me review some hard facts:
Diabetes has doubled in North Dakota since 1997. We have around 40,000 cases costing more than $300 million annually, two-thirds of which consists of medical bills.
One-fourth of North Dakotans, probably around 100,000, have high blood pressure, producing strokes that put hundreds of folks in nursing homes before their time and driving up the cost of Medicaid.
Obesity, the mother of many illnesses, has increased 80 percent over the last 15 years. Two-thirds of us (that must be at least 300,000) are overweight or obese, resulting in diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and other consequences yet unknown. If the obesity trend continues, we will all be wearing stretch pants by 2018.
There’s no use talking to people about responding to these conditions with more exercise and less food. They love to “eat out” more than to tackle the treadmill. Given these constraints of human behavior, it is obvious that something must be done about the “eating out” part because the present restaurateurs show no sign of health concerns.
It is time for Blue Cross Blue Shield to launch a new chain of restaurants that will offer the healthiest of food for this huge market created by diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and obesity. I suggest we call them the LifeLine Kitchens with the theme “Live Longer with Lifeline” and offer special menus for diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity.
First, we need to acquire some tasty recipes for cholesterol-free ice cream, deep-fried vegetables, green fried tomatoes, turkey burgers, buffalo burgers and no-sodium soup. Only canola oil will be used for deep frying.
Then the ag research people need to come up with new products, such as eggs without yolks and all-skin potatoes. Our cooks should have missionary zeal and revive that old gospel song “Rescue the Perishing.”
The salad bar should be the envy of the restaurant world, with spectacular outlays at enticing prices. Instead of “happy hours,” we should have “happy weeks” with a half-price salad bar and free all-you-can eat celery. The users of the obesity menu should pay by the calorie.
Instead of the 10 percent discount now available for only seniors, every patron should be eligible for a 20 percent markdown. That will bring in the business, especially from seniors who will travel miles and eat at strange hours, just to get that petty 10 percent break. They won’t be able to resist 20 percent.
As you can tell, the goal of Lifeline Kitchens will be healthier diets and not profits. In fact, they may lose money. But the big profits will roll in when Blue Cross Blue Shield enjoys fewer and lower insurance claims. When the profits accumulate, the patrons of Lifeline Kitchens should be first in line for lower co-pays and reduced premiums.
This venture would save millions for Medicare and Medicaid so they should put up some of the capital needed to get Lifeline Kitchens off the ground.
The health crisis requires a response commensurate to the problem. Your Dec. 2 annual meeting is the time to be imaginative and bold.
OK. So what’s your idea?
(Lloyd Omdahl, of Grand Forks, is a former lieutenant governor, state tax commissioner and state budget director)