The Value of Experimentation in Improving Health Care in America–Blog by Carolyn Pare, Action Group president and CEO

“What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?”

John Green, best-selling author and one-half of the vlogbrothers*

For as many years as I have been working with the Action Group, first as an employer Board member and then as president and CEO, people from around the country have said to me, “You’re from Planet Minnesota. We can’t pursue the same reform opportunities in health care here (e.g., Texas, New York, Pennsylvania…) because our market is different.” My response is always the same: While tactics might need to be different because health care solutions work best when adapted to local values, culture, political climates, and community needs, ALL of us have the capacity to influence positive change through vision, political will, leadership, and tenacity.

So, it was with great optimism, interest and enthusiasm that I read of the Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase announcement about plans to create an independent company that will rein in health care costs for their employees. This is exactly what was happening in Minnesota when I first got involved in health care. Leaders of large corporations based in the Twin Cities took a very bold and different approach to health care purchasing.

Bottom line? Local executives and benefits professionals wanted to quit chasing year-over-year savings by switching to cheaper plans and, instead, find a way to pay health care providers (doctors) based on quality outcomes and solid, high-value relationships with patients (their employees). The result was a program called Choice Plus.

Value-based purchasing. Patient-reported outcomes. Transparent pricing. Quality ratings. Consumer-directed health care. Vertically integrated delivery systems. Total cost of care. Nationwide, all of these themes are now in play in one form or another in public and commercial sectors.  And, while I want to be careful not to overstate, I also want to be sure people understand that it was through the groundbreaking work of some very visionary and courageous corporate leaders, IN MINNESOTA, that these concepts became both tactics and products across the country. Yes, it took years, but it took. And even though affordability is becoming a bigger issue than ever, we know what we can do. What we now need is the political will.

Lessons learned

As the new employer group moves forward to reduce cost and improve value in health care, I hope they can use a few lessons we learned during our journey:

At The Action Group, we will continue to keep our sites set on improving life here on Planet Minnesota — and far beyond. We will do this by remaining singularly focused on health care, uniting employers around common issues, amplifying the voice of those who write the checks for health care, and improving patient experience and outcomes.

Together with our members and with all vested stakeholders, we will flex our political will and accomplish more than any of us can alone, just as our founding members envisioned.

From the Archives:

*John Green Health Care Vlogs:

Carolyn Pare is the President and CEO of the Minnesota Health Action Group.