Tommy Thompson, former Health And Human Services Secretary and four-term Governor of Wisconsin, discussed how manufacturers can stem rising heath care costs, in his keynote address at the 2006 National Manufacturing Week in Rosemont, IL.According to Thompson, the cost of health care is the number one issue in the U.S. outside of the war on terror and homeland security. Prevention is the key to stemming the rising cost of health care, said Thompson, "We must change the system. Over 93% of the money spent on health care is spent after someone gets sick." Manufacturers can drive down their costs of health care by starting their own health care programs in their own businesses. Thompson said there are three areas where companies can work with employees to help them be healthier: tobacco-related illnesses, diabetic conditions and overweight issues. Employers can implement stop-smoking programs, and bring nutritionists into their plants to educate employees on proper eating and the advantages of exercising. These measures will help manufacturers to control health care costs in their own facilities, while improving the health and welfare of employees and their families. Wellness programs have been instituted by 62% of the employers in the U.S., and rising health care costs played a major role in their decision to implement these programs. Manufacturers should implement wellness programs in their facilities and then bring in their health care carriers and see if they can get their premiums lowered, said Thompson. Don't wait for Congress to implement a better health care system, concluded Thompson, manufacturers can start now to change the health care system, beginning in their own facilities.