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Dennis Hill

Taking responsibility in a new era of health care

By Dennis Hill

This issue of North Dakota Living features a special editorial emphasis on health care in our state. As you read this issue’s articles and advertisements, you’ll see that North Dakota is home to first-class health care facilities that are staffed by qualified health care professionals. And as the articles on pages 8 and 12 point out, there is a strong commitment to providing quality health care in rural areas. As the chief executive officer of one rural medical center puts it, “People in rural areas deserve high-quality care.”

My appreciation for health care access and costs was raised dramatically this year. I was honored to have been elected to serve as a consumer representative on the board of directors of Noridian Mutual Insurance Company, doing business in our state as Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBS of ND). BCBS is a nonprofit, mutual insurance company, owned by its policy holders. In that way, it operates similarly to electric cooperatives, which are also owned by their members.

The learning curve in this new position is steep: “Health care reform. Escalating health care costs. Rampant chronic diseases. It’s clear we’re all entering a new era of health care,” reads the opening page on the company’s website. Dealing with all these issues and the uncertainty it creates has been and is challenging for health insurance companies like BCBS of ND and others.  

What is known in the health care industry is that chronic illnesses and lifestyle choices are key drivers in rising health care costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that as a nation, 75 percent of our health care dollars goes to treatment of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and arthritis. These, says the CDC, are among the most common, costly and preventable of all health problems in the United States.

BCBS of ND also studies and understands the connection between lifestyles and health. The company believes if it can play a role in helping people live healthier lives, it helps make the cost of care more affordable. But more importantly, it will also improve quality of life.

That’s where each of us can take more steps (literally and figuratively) to improve our own health and quality of life. Eat right. Exercise regularly. Reduce stress. There is a wealth of information on how to add these lifestyle changes to our lives on the web, from your health care professional, or from your insurance company. BCBS of ND, for example, has added a new program called “Healthy Blue” to its website, which offers a one-stop, online wellness center.

Wellness, quality of life — that’s the overall goal for the state’s medical and health care community.  Let’s each do our part to help along the way.

Dennis Hill, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Mandan. Comments can be mailed to Dennis Hill, NDAREC, P.O. Box 727, Mandan, ND 58554-0727 or by email to



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