Former GE CEO Jeff Immelt to advise Collective Health

Jeff Immelt, the former CEO of General Electric, joined the advisory board of Collective Health, a software startup whose product helps manage employee health benefits, he wrote in a LinkedIn post.

This marks the second healthcare company Mr. Immelt will advise since his retirement from GE in 2007 — in February, he was appointed chairman of athenahealth.

In his post, Mr. Immelt described an "epiphany" he had about healthcare while working at GE, which sparked his interest in the industry.

"In the peak of the global financial crisis, GE's employee healthcare bill hit $3 billion. That's right: $3 billion. To put that in context, the company was spending as much on employee healthcare in one year than our massive healthcare unit was earning, and more than we spent on steel," he wrote. "The day I had that realization was the day that employee healthcare became my problem, and solving it became my mission. I made a deliberate decision to master our healthcare investment and choices like I did every other critical area in our business."

Mr. Immelt began thinking of ways to reduce GE's health spending, and successfully decreased the company's costs by more than 20 percent before his retirement. The C-suite plays a vital role in achieving these savings, he argues.

"Too often, the C-suite is unknowingly protecting mediocrity and insufficient [return on investment] in employee benefits programs," Mr. Immelt wrote. "By applying the same rigor and focus to this area that you do on other areas of your business, your people and your bottom line will reap the rewards."

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