Keynote: Executive panel on equity, improving health systems


Aaron Kunkler


Three of Washington’s most insightful health care leaders joined us for the afternoon keynote at the 2022 Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference. 


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The keynote, moderated by State of Reform’s own DJ Wilson, included Leanne Berge, chief executive officer of Community Health Plan of Washington, Ben Danielson, clinical professor at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, and Mark Mantei, chief executive officer for The Vancouver Clinic. 

Equity in the health care system, and how to improve health outcomes, were a focus of the conversation. Berge said her organization is working to advance health equity, and building a model of full-person care. The pandemic highlighted inequities in health care, and accelerated the work to address it. 

One of the limitations facing health systems, she said, is a focus on short-term thinking and return on investment. 

“We really need to think about the value that we’ll see over time,” Berge said. 

Mantei said COVID opened their eyes to the benefit of taking a population health approach. It is something they were working on previously, but they found it works well in their integrated health system model. He also said that fee-for-service models are outdated, and need to be retired. The Vancouver Clinic is concentrating on moving to a value-based system instead. 

When thinking about racism and health care, Berge said the Community Health Plan of Washington is advancing equity in its own culture, and building an understanding and awareness of the role that racism and other issues play in preventing equity. 

When asked whether there could be limits to what the health care system can do to address equity, Danielson said it’s better to focus on what can be done, instead of what can’t. He pointed to medical-legal partnership, which allowed doctors to work alongside civil rights lawyers to develop opportunities and solutions to advance health outcomes and equity.