March 2018 Letter from the Executive Director: National Employers Meet in Seattle to Tackle Health Care Affordability

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March 2018 Letter from the Executive Director: National Employers Meet in Seattle to Tackle Health Care Affordability

National and regional employers, health care providers, and other health care leaders convened in Seattle yesterday for a National Employer Summit addressing “The Purchaser’s Role in Driving Affordability.” Organized by the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement, with the Washington Health Alliance serving as local host, the Summit provided a forum for employers to discuss innovative ideas to curb the rising cost of health care. About 125 people attended the event, and I am pleased that 17 of the presenters were from the state of Washington, allowing us to showcase the amazing work we are doing together here.

Experts from Boeing, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GE, and many others presented on and discussed the importance of bringing down the cost of health care by finding innovative solutions. These solutions can include value-based purchasing, challenging the status-quo through new benefit and policy designs, and being more transparent about the cost of health care.

As we’ve seen with recent announcements from large national employers who are entering the health care space, purchasers can lead efforts to advance health care affordability. For far too long, health care has been barreling down a road of high costs, lack of transparency, and uncoordinated efforts, with a worrisome destination of unaffordability. It is time to make changes, bring new stakeholders and groundbreaking ideas to the table, and disrupt a seemingly intractable system.

This summit was a critical kickoff to this new movement toward health care affordability and allowed attendees to lay the groundwork for taking coordinated action. The focus for this summit was on employers and they were urged to leverage their purchasing power to drive change, use data to inform action and reduce waste in the system, and create a common vision of health care affordability.

In the coming days and weeks, we will share additional materials from the conference, including video recordings of the sessions. In the meantime, here is a sampling of some of my favorite quotes from the conference:

  • “We’ve got to get data flowing. Without data flowing, it’s impossible to do this (improve health care affordability).” – Frederick Isasi, Families USA
  • “We’re looking at how we can use data to drive our decisions. A key factor in our success is the investment in the data.” – Merissa Clyde, SEIU 775 Benefits Group
  • In order to reduce unnecessary care, “We need to change the mindset from ‘Why DIDN’T you do that test?’ to ‘Why DID you do that test?’” – Daniel Wolfson, ABIM Foundation
  • “Overuse must become central to honest discussions of health care value. Purchasers need to take the lead and demand less harm.” – Susie Dade, Washington Health Alliance
  • “We need to provide air coverage for benefit leaders by getting CEOs involved to help drive change in the area of health care.” – Michael Cochran, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • “We must embrace disruption. Disruption is going to be necessary to have remarkably different results.” – Trisha Tyler, Mercer

I’m encouraged to see more organizations and leaders concerned about the issue of health care cost and I believe that the increased focus will help generate change. This is an issue of importance to all of us: to our employees, to our businesses, and to our own families. I look forward to working with Alliance members and other stakeholders to continue to lead the conversation around affordability and use our data and reports to make meaningful improvements to the health care system.


Nancy A. Giunto
Executive Director
Washington Health Alliance

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