During a special signing ceremony on Tuesday, Governor Spencer Cox took the One Utah Health Collaborative’s (OUHC) pledge of commitment to improving affordability, equity, and outcomes for the state’s health care system.
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Cox announced OUHC’s 6-member Board of Directors and the Executive Director, Jaime Wissler, who joined the governor in signing the pledge.
Launched by Cox last November, the community-owned nonprofit aims to transform health care in the state by uniting a broad group of partners on solutions around health care delivery, accessibility, and payment that will enable the system to scale and benefit all Utahns.
“Addressing the cost of health care has become an economic imperative,” Cox said at the signing ceremony. “Failure to do so will stunt Utah’s economic growth by constraining employer profits, decreasing employee wages, and crowding out other state spending priorities. But in Utah, we solve problems, and we will solve this problem before it is solved for us by heavy-handed federal policy. Let’s come together and find solutions that work for our state.”
The collaborative’s pledge is open to all stakeholders to take and outlines 3 primary goals over a 15-year period:
- Affordability: to lead the nation on affordable health care for consumers and stakeholders
- Equity: to provide equitable health care regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, geography, or background
- Outcomes: to have the healthiest state population in the nation
“[Utah’s approach] is not meant to be from the government perspective,” said OUHC Board Chairman and Partner at SpringTide Ventures Ryan Morley in an interview with State of Reform.
“Many states have tried to do that. It’s not from a federal government perspective. It’s not from a single party payer [or] provider. Culturally, if it makes sense in our state to be able to have this as an understanding that there’s not one stakeholder that is the beneficiary or the responsible party. We are trying to get together all the different components of the system and create that collaboration.”
OUHC organizers recently concluded a statewide speaking tour where conversations with various stakeholders about what the solutions should look like laid the groundwork for working together.
At the heart of its efforts is transitioning Utah to value-based care, which requires providers to fundamentally change their operations, financial management, and delivery along with payers to buy-in.
One key group whose engagement is key to reaching the goals of the collaborative, organizers say, is employers.
“Right now [employer engagement] is even harder because we’re in a tight labor market,” said Marc Bennett, President and CEO of Comagine Health and an advisor to the project, during a recent webinar on his numerous conversations with small, medium, and large sized businesses in the state.
“It’s really hard to get access to and connected [to], and to interact successfully with providers or employers when they’re saying, ‘I can’t do anything that’s going to rock the boat with my employees right now because the most important thing for me is to get labor’ and so this was a real big lift.
What we were starting to realize is [that] these employers care a lot about their employees, they want a system that works for them. They, just like all the rest of us, recognize that this is a flawed system the way it is. And if we can give them concrete ways to participate, I think they are interested in [participating] so I’m excited about the voice of employers being part of this. We just have to figure out how to tap that without overwhelming them because they don’t have a lot of time.”
OUHC says it has already engaged in hundreds of conversations with various stakeholders and community groups over the course of its 6-month organizing phase. Utah has been at the forefront of health care innovation with Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health, and the Huntsman Cancer Institute leading the way.
The University of Utah’s intensive outpatient clinic program has successfully integrated mental and physical care along with social support for its Medicaid patients while improving outcomes and reducing costs by 50% over a 2-year period.
Organizers say it is this kind of innovation that can measure the cost and utilization impacts of potential payment model solutions. OUHC said it will continue to build support and gain pledges of commitment to its goals of reducing costs and improving outcomes from key stakeholders.
As it moves forward with planning, organizers say the process will be challenging but collaborative because of the shared goals of the pledge.
“The collaborative has identified a few priority areas, so innovations, kind of the central theme of promoting innovation,” said John Poelman, Managing Principal at Leavitt Partners and one of the collaborative’s lead organizers.
“[Alternative Payment Models] can’t do everything but it’s at least a start. It’s focused on primary care … there can be a lot of different ways from workforce towards payment. To address that, mental health is something that our state has some momentum in and it’s because we’ve had a lot of problems there. Access is inevitably to be one and data interoperability.
There is some narrow focus [in] certain areas that fall into [those] means and value will certainly play a role in some of those but isn’t the dominant one … We have to think broader. We’re talking about real transformation.”