During this holiday season, it’s good to spend some time to reflect on the leaders and organizations that have allowed “State of Reform” to have success in 2011 – and which position us for success in 2012.

First up would need to be Premera, our leading sponsor and supporter across both our Alaska and Washington events.  So, I wanted to shine just a little light on Premera from our vantage.

To begin, I recognize that comments about a sponsoring organization might come across as less than objective, and frankly, self-serving.  So, I’ll just preface by saying these comments are as objective as they can be within that admittedly biased framework.

Over the last decade in which I’ve been working in health care, I’ve come to know Jack McRae at Premera, their SVP of Congressional and Legislative Affairs.  I’ve been on different sides of him in a number of different settings.  In every instance, I’ve found him to be among the most professional political and policy leaders in health care.  He is one of the masters of quiet conversations, almost always behind the scenes.

When I first brought to him the idea of a conference focused on reforming health care, following national implementation, and trying to bring every stakeholder to the conversation, I didn’t know what Premera might think.  I probably expected indifference.

I got the opposite:  full and enthusiastic engagement.  Frankly, if Premera had opposed the idea, I’m not sure we could have pulled this off.  That is certainly the case for the event in Alaska, where Premera controls about 90% of the commercial marketplace.

Instead, Jack – along with Jeff Davis, Eric Earling and Lynn Rust Henderson – has made Premera the most engaged, supportive partner we could have asked for.  And, after having listened to conversations with them behind closed doors, I can tell you their interests are in a broad, comprehensive conversation about updating the health care system in the Northwest – not in heel dragging, status quo arrangements.

That may be why they decided to join the Healthy Options marketplace, likely leading Premera to being deeply ensconced in the exchange here.  Joining Medicaid isn’t traditionally done due to the margins in Washington State capitation.

In any case, I’m proud of our partnership with Premera and deeply grateful for the support they’ve shown our efforts in 2011 – and 2012.