Inclusion essential in health care talks

March 6, 2009
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As President Barack Obama convened a summit for discussion of health care reforms last Thursday in Washington, D.C., the Detroit Free Press Washington bureau reported that senior members of his administration would be in Dearborn March 12 for a “health care reform discussion.” Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Sen. Debbie Stabenow are expected to lead that discussion.

It is curious, at best, that the regional Alliance for Health was uninformed of the meeting, let alone invited to the table for discussion, despite its 60 years of health care planning and cost containment initiatives in a 12-county region of Michigan.

It is curious because the governor cited and then emulated one of the Alliance’s most successful programs to insure employees and others who had no health care benefits. It is curious because the Alliance was designated a Chartered Value Exchange by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — recognition given to just 14 communities across the country based on the organization’s work to implement cutting-edge, collaborative methods to transform health care at the local level. Curious because the Alliance was one of 14 U.S. communities to receive a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, Aligning Forces for Quality, which helped establish four work groups on Consumer Engagement, Quality Improvement, Performance Measurement and Public Reporting. Curious because the alliance also won additional funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to establish Aligning Forces for Quality, Phase 2, a project to reduce disparities in race, ethnicity and primary language that occur at the inpatient setting.

Curious because the group is untainted by partisan politics, county lines or any one group of health care practitioners, and is a literal gold mine of in-depth research and studies going back to its founding.

The great national discussion of health care reform and prolonged debate on cutting insurance costs while improving access to coverage goes back further than some remember. It did not start with the Clintons; it started with President Harry Truman and then Ronald Reagan and his head of the OMB, former U.S. Rep. David Stockman, R-St. Joseph. Stockman established regional Health Systems Agencies across the country and they were modeled on the Alliance, which in fact became the HSA for this region.

It may be seemingly politically prudent to hold such Michigan hearings in the land of the UAW, which has tremendous, new responsibilities to its retired and current members, and which in Michigan has supported cost containment and the certificate of needs process, but it also is polarizing.

Grand Rapids Business Journal notes that on the same evening the Dearborn hearing is scheduled, the Alliance will honor its two Hillman Award winners for health care leadership: Dr. George Vande Woude, Van Andel Research Institute’s first director, and Mercy Health Partners President and CEO Roger Spoelman.

The pending imposition of federal policy in regard to health care could find at least some respect from all corners of the issue were it setting out to include those with the greatest amount to offer in experience and information.

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