BLOG: Key takeaways from the Alliance 2018 Spring Leadership Forum, Day 2 and 3

Joe Lastinger, Health Plan Alliance



If you haven’t already, read the Day 1 recap.


View from the Hill

Day two of the Spring Leadership Forum kicked off with Ceci Connolly, president and CEO, Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP), who delivered an update on the outlook of Washington.  She opened by pointing out a gap in priorities between voters and our elected leaders on the importance of healthcare.  One of her key messages was, “don’t get your hopes up for significant change or progress” with this congress.  Sadly, both parties have to play to their bases and all eyes are on mid-term elections.  That is not to say there aren’t some areas of activity and even a little excitement—mostly in the administration.  Combatting the opioid crisis is high on everyone’s agenda now.  She noted that Alex Azar, the new secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been a vocal critic of parts of the prescription drug delivery chain, including pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) criticizing things such as patent thickets, obstruction to biosimilars, and the lack of pricing transparency.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, is also focused on the opioid crisis, drug competition and cost control. There is also some energy and activity on value based transformation, a continuation of work started in the Obama administration.


Becoming the “go-to organizer of care”

Ellen Kelsey, the National Business Group on Health, provided a comprehensive update on the employer perspective in 2018.  Her presentation was followed by David Smith, Third Horizon Strategies, who delivered what I would characterize as a macroeconomics dissection of healthcare in the U.S.  It reminded me in a way of Steve Balmer’s post-Microsoft project—the website While you can download a .pdf of David’s presentation, it contained many animated infographics that you may want to acquire from David.  

Ellen mentioned that employers desperately need entities that can serve as “general contractors.”  The general contractor is a single trusted contact point and contract holder that can organize the network of vendors and care delivery—forcing everyone to play nice, share data as needed, and optimize service level and quality at a low cost.  Never underestimate the value to end customers of contractual convenience.  They will often choose lower quality, higher priced products because of contractual convenience.  David pointed out that healthcare is local and that optimizing financing and delivery may not be possible in a one-size fits all approach.  He sees an opportunity (actually, more than 3,400 of them, if one uses the Dartmouth Atlas Hospital Service Area definition) for “aggregators” to step up and organize particular markets (or hospital service areas).  The role of aggregator can be filled by any organization or group of organizations in particular markets with sufficient clout, be they employers, hospitals, physician groups, payer, associations or government.  The unanswered question implicit in both presentations is how can Health Plan Alliance member plans position themselves as the go-to organizer of care in their respective markets?  

The balance of talent and strategy

Tim Frishmon, Furst Group, and Joe Mazzenga, NuBrick Partners, helped cap the conference with a presentation and discussion on The Balance of Talent and Strategy.  As a leader, I find it helpful to constantly revisit established best practices in talent management.  One concept in particular resonated with my personal experience in organizations: the enterprise mindset.  In the middle of many large organizations are smart people that simply don’t understand the enterprise business.  They may be experts in the area they manage or lead, but don’t understand how the organization as a whole wins.  Tim and Joe also pointed out that not all competencies have equal weight in becoming a successful enterprise leader.  Technical and subject matter expertise/intelligence become less valuable as the scope of responsibility increases and people/strategic intelligence becomes more important.  As a final aside, I am a fan of the tool they used to provide instant survey results and crowdsource questions—plan on seeing that at future Alliance events and maybe future board meetings.  

About half the value of an Alliance meeting is in the sessions and the other half is in the connections and conversations that happen in the hallways, the bar and around dinner tables.  There was a lot of chatter around prescription drug management (PBM acquisitions, specialty pharma management, innovative approaches to cost management, etc.) Improving alignment with parent systems and responding to new competitive threats from large national plans were also discussed almost as frequently.  Finally, consumer engagement (call center strategies, etc.), speculation about new Medicare Advantage guidance and risk adjustment were other common themes.

Your presence is what makes these meetings valuable for everyone. We look forward to you joining us at one of our upcoming in-person events.



Upcoming events

2018 Alliance In-Person Events
2018 Full Alliance Calendar


Upcoming leadership forums


JUNE 26-29  |  Health System & Health Plan Leadership Forum

LondonHouse, Chicago
*Special onsite visit to an Oak Street clinic. Oak Street presented at the 2017 Fall Leadership Forum:

Listen to podcast  |  Download presentation


OCT 10-12  |  Fall Leadership Forum 
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TIP: You can also access all the event presentations from the documents tab on the Spring Leadership Forum event page and in the Alliance Knowledge CenterSM.



TIP: You can also access all the event presentations from the documents tab on the Spring Leadership Forum event page and in the Alliance Knowledge CenterSM.



TIP: You can also access all the event presentations from the documents tab on the Spring Leadership Forum event page and in the Alliance Knowledge CenterSM.


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