Health Care and Nonprofits

Alliance charts new course

Board meeting Nov. 10 will introduce new initiatives.

October 31, 2014
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Maintaining its mission to bring high-quality health care services at the lowest cost, the nonprofit Alliance for Health has introduced two new employer initiatives and a nutritional awareness effort.

The broad-based community coalition announced last week an invitation to current and former members of the board of directors to discuss the mission and strategic direction of the organization — a new small-employer health benefit maximization plan, a health-risk management program for self-funded employers, and a collaborative nutritional initiative.

Saying the organization requires alignment and cohesion of the entire board for its sustainability, the Alliance invited current and former board members to discuss the new employer initiatives during the upcoming Nov. 10 meeting at 4 p.m. at GVSU’s The Bicycle Factory, 201 Front Ave. SW.

In a letter for board members, Chairman Donald Hall stated the organization is willing to consider placing the initiatives in a subsidiary corporation to gain full board support and hopes to resolve issues that caused some members to resign.

Paul Brand, president and chief executive officer of Alliance for Health, said the organization has reached out to all members of the board to have another opportunity to consider and understand the current status of Alliance for Health, its strategic plans for the future, and to engage in dialogue.

“The focus of the Alliance for Health has always been ‘health care cost, quality and access.’ Over time, we have seen some West Michigan employers disengaging from supporting the traditional planning function of the Alliance for Health,” said Brand. “Some have questioned the value of their investment.”

The organization’s board voted Sept. 29 to approve the addition of the small-employer health benefits maximization plan, known as Best-Fit-Benefits, and a health-risk management program. The benefits program grants small employers increased access to high-quality health coverage at rates currently available only to employers with 150 employees or more.

As an electronic enrollment system, the Best-Fit-Benefits program aids employees in developing a customized benefit plan providing the best value while maintaining choice and accessibility, according to the Alliance. With its health benefit optimization approach, the program allows individuals to choose the coverage best suited for their needs, which physicians are included in the coverage, and the level of access to hospitals and other health care services.

The program allows the organization to fulfill its mission in a meaningful way and add value to employers, Brand said.

“Small employers are most at risk of ceasing to provide health benefits to employees and their families due to the cost. Best-Fit-Benefits, as a health benefits maximizer, represents a unique technology that would not otherwise be available in West Michigan to help, except as a result of the involvement of the Alliance for Health,” said Brand.

“The Best-Fit-Benefits program gives small employers access to better and more affordable coverage for their staff. This process is squarely in the historic convening-of-the-stakeholders function the Alliance for Health has played over decades.”

Members of the board also voted to authorize the collaboration between AFH staff and Human Capital Management Services Group, a combined health information technology and clinical information services company, to organize large employer group members in benefits redesign programs. The purpose of the redesign programs is to reduce health costs through data-driven health management.

Another reason for developing the employer initiatives is to create additional sources of revenue for the coalition. As a nonprofit, the Alliance will use the funds directly to support initiatives serving community needs, according to a written statement.

The Alliance also introduced the new community health initiative known as ReThink Healthy, which is a collaboration between more than 40 organizations in the West Michigan region focusing on providing nutritional education and resources on the effects of sugar and high-carbohydrate foods. Financial support for the initiative is derived from Alliance for Health funds and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant.

As an effort to raise awareness about the causes of illness and disease in West Michigan, Brand said ReThink Healthy represents an expanded vision for Alliance for Health.

“Most people believe they eat healthy. They don’t. What most of us believe to be healthy eating is not supported by the nutrition science,” said Brand. “We are focused on encouraging people to adopt simple changes in nutrition that can have a major impact on the health of our population.”

ReThink Healthy’s online platform provides a resource for sharing information about nutrition by leveraging the engagement and connectivity of social media. The website also includes posting recipes, quizzes, a Way2Well Maps tool, and information on programs, classes and learning resources from the community.

Content for ReThink Healthy’s website was developed with input from members of the Learning Leaders for Health and Nutrition.

Organizations that provided data on local restaurants, healthy retailers, farmers markets and community gardens included Kitchen Stewardship, EatGR, Local First and the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council.

The Nov. 10 board meeting also will consider a report from the Evaluation Board on the future participation of the organization in the Certificate of Need review process. Alliance for Health has historically conducted CON proceedings as part of its project evaluation services to help balance community needs and reduce duplications of health care services.

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