At State of Reform conference, Alliance executive director challenges status quo

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At State of Reform conference, Alliance executive director challenges status quo

Dr. Drew Oliveira, the Alliance’s executive director, speaks during a keynote conversation at State of Reform’s 2023 Washington Health Policy conference in Seattle.

When asked for bold steps in 2023 during State of Reform’s Washington Health Policy conference, Alliance Executive Director Dr. Drew Oliveira said it comes down to pushing outside the status quo.  

“We are in Seattle where everyone tries to play nice – play nice in the sandbox, be friendly.  everyone needs to be a little bit less of that. we need to be a little more intentional. we need to be … a bit bolder,” Oliveria said. “The employer community needs to start taking action, rather than being passive. If they demand more for what they are paying for in both quality and affordability, then we will see the market move.”  

Joining Washington Health Care Authority Director Sue Birch for a keynote conversation that touched repeatedly on addressing healthcare inequalities with an eye on cost and quality, Oliveira stressed: “If we keep doing the same thing, we are going to get the same result.” 

The one-day conference drew scores of health policy and healthcare leaders to Seattle on Jan. 5 for panels that drilled down on key issues for the coming year, many of which tied back to the mounting concern about inequities that worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

With equity as a driving force for the Alliance’s work in the coming year, Oliveira highlighted this year’s annual Community Checkup release will hone in on disparities through an analysis not yet reported in Washington.  

“Those disparities of health are long known to those of us who have worked with folks and seen the barriers that are there,” said Oliveira, who spent much of his career as a family medicine doctor. “We are adding those to our reports as well, so we can start looking a bit more granular at where are some issues and how do we then target and focus some of that work to really improve the care for those who are more disadvantaged.”  

While many barriers exist to improving the health of all Washingtonians, it is clear that cost plays a substantial role.  

“When you look at the population in general, 50% of people can’t afford $500 in healthcare, so what does that mean? It means that they defer care, they don’t get the care they are supposed to, such as managing a chronic condition. That smaller cost is really big for more families. Unless we are going to start to address this and high-deductibles – as much as $5,000 – they may not get their care until something catastrophic.”  

Agreeing with Oliveira, Birch, who represents the

state’s largest healthcare purchaser, put a strong emphasis on containing costs.  

“We simply have to learn to live within our means with healthcare,” Birch said “If this country cannot live under the soon-to-be $6.3 trillion projection of healthcare spending, what is wrong with us?”  

Facing these issues ahead for 2023, both Oliveira and Birch found common ground on the importance of partnerships – a bedrock for the Alliance and HCA. 

“Really we have everybody at the table, and I think that’s really important in terms of being able to get some work done,” Oliveira said. “It’s one thing to talk about, it’s another to be able to actually do something with that. So having 50 provider organizations as an example, having all the health plans, having purchasers at the table, who should really care about what they are buying on the market…  this is how we start moving that needle more.”  


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