Better Together! The Action Group Unites Stakeholders to Accelerate Change in the Health Care Marketplace–Blog by Carolyn Pare

Better Together! The Action Group Unites Stakeholders to Accelerate Change in the Health Care Marketplace–Blog by Carolyn Pare

Review of 2018, Looking Ahead to 2019

Mental health care innovators from Air Healthcare, Happify, Joyable, and Lyra Healthcare presented new solutions for improving outcomes for the 4 in 10 U.S. adults who face mental health and/or substance use disorders during The Action Group’s year-end meeting. Meeting presentations are available through the Member Center on the homepage.

Even in an environment where politics and public debate are increasingly acrimonious, a very positive and encouraging message we repeatedly hear from our members and other friends of The Action Group is this: “I am optimistic that TOGETHER, we will be able to accelerate performance improvement in key areas of the health care system.”

With the busy-ness of life today, it’s easy to continue ramping up speed, forgetting to pause to acknowledge and thank those who have dedicated their careers to making benefits and the health care system better for their peers, co-workers — and all Minnesotans. Each December, we do just that. We come together to reflect on our progress, lay the groundwork for the coming year — and thank all of our trusted advisors and the dedicated health care, human resource and benefits professionals among us.

Action Group members and other stakeholders know from experience that we are able to accomplish more together than any of us can alone. There is strength in our collective voice and progress through our united action.


Highlights of 2018

Amplifying our voice. 
We are always pleased to see our coalition strengthened by an expanding member roster. In 2018, Allina Health | Aetna, Graco, Great River Energy, HealthFitness, Mortenson, Ottertail Corporation, PDR clinics, Thrivent Financial, and University of Minnesota Physicians became members. Membership growth helps amplify our voice in the marketplace, and fresh ideas and insights contribute to our ongoing revitalization.

Updated regularly, the member directory is available in The Action Group’s online Member Center from the homepage. To view the member roster, please click here.

Collaborating and innovating to accelerate improvements in health care quality and transparency.
Action Group members and other key stakeholders contribute to improving the health care system through a variety of initiatives.

  • Mental Health Learning Network and Guiding Coalition. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was passed 10 years ago, yet the promise of mental health parity remains elusive. Stigma, network, access and cost issues remain for the 4 in 10 Americans who face mental illness and/or substance use disorders. Throughout 2018, 11 leading employers dedicated significant time and effort to examining the current state of mental health care in Minnesota and articulating a path forward for individual and collective action. The employer guide, Working Well in Minnesota: Insights and Actions to Help Employers Advance Mental Health in the Workplace, is now publicly available and the culminating Community Dialogue in October was a resounding success (presentations and case studies are available here). The subsequent Mental Health Guiding Coalition is now forming, with membership likely to exceed all of our expectations. Deb Krause, Action Group vice president, has two compelling blogs on the topic: “Let’s Make It Happen,” and “Mental Health Parity: It’s Time to Fulfill the Promise.”
  • Specialty Drug Guiding Coalition. Over 40 Specialty Drug Guiding Coalition members from more than 20 organizations, along with 17 Action Group members, collaborated for nearly two years to uncover solutions to the specialty drug challenges affecting us all. Representatives from employers, health plans, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), specialty pharmacies, provider organizations, and drug companies set aside their differences to develop and agree on 20 goals to drive needed change. Guiding Coalition members reflected on accomplishments, challenges and opportunities for continued collaboration during the group’s final meeting — and received the Specialty Drug Employer Playbook, the result of nearly five years of work by members of two member Learning Networks and the multi-stakeholder Guiding Coalition.

Networking and learning together.
The following initiatives illustrate how members network and learn through The Action Group:

  • Annual Employer Benefits Survey. Our exclusive, confidential, free Survey designed by employers for employers provides comprehensive health plan benefit benchmarks from Minnesota employers. It offers invaluable strategic and tactical plan design details, along with insight into health plan vendors, prescription drug trends (with an emphasis on specialty pharmacy), wellness programs, market innovations, and more. Some of the key findings in 2018 include a health care cost trend that is higher than the national average, a workforce that is increasingly diverse, and obesity and mental health as critical concerns. A summary of the Survey results can be found here.
  • Mental Health First Aid @ Work Training. People with mental health and substance use challenges can and do recover when they have access to appropriate care and ongoing support. This was the key message heard by Action Group members and staff who participated in a new wave of first aid training rapidly sweeping the world, Mental Health First Aid at Work. Participants unanimously agreed that learning to notice and support someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use concern or crisis and helping connect them with employee resources was invaluable.
  • Meetings and Events. Relying on members to drive content, Action Group meetings and events are designed to provoke and promote innovation and action. In 2018, we hosted eight “main events” to serve members and non-members. From our sold-out Annual Employer Leadership Summit and Mental Health Community Dialogue, to energizing meetings on far-reaching, member-requested topics, it was an eventful year of learning and networking. Findings and discussion help inform future initiatives and open opportunities for members to work closely together to ignite positive change. Member meeting presentations (RFPs, ACOs, Data and Insights, Health Care Costs: From Opacity to Transparency, An American Sickness book club, and Year in Review/Look Ahead/Mental Health Innovators) are all available online through the Member Center on the homepage*.

Concluding the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) grant.
While the number of new diabetes cases each year is stabilizing, the rate of prediabetes is rising at a troublesome rate. In fact, one in three American adults have prediabetes — and 90 percent of them don’t know it. But there’s good news, too. Losing just five to seven percent of body weight significantly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. That’s why we collaborated for four years with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to raise awareness about this looming public health crisis, and advance efforts to ensure the DPP is available as a covered benefit. Today, every Minnesota health plan offers the DPP, countless DPP lifestyle coaches have been trained, and a rapidly increasing number of Minnesota employers are offering access to local programs that have achieved full DPP recognition from the CDC.

Representing our members and the communities they serve.
Action Group staff continue to serve members and communities in unique ways. Whether within the state through the Minnesota Department of Health, MN Community Measurement, and the regional American Cancer Society, or nationally through the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions and the National Quality Forum we often speak, appear on panels, blog, and testify on behalf of members.

Looking Ahead to 2019

Our vision for 2019 involves:

  • Achieving real mental health care parity for all Minnesotans.
  • Wrapping up the work of the Specialty Drug Guiding Coalition with the January, 16, 2019, Community Dialogue, Driving Transformative Change in the Specialty Drug Marketplace Through Health Policy and Legislative Action.
  • Imagining and planning for the workforce of the future at our Annual Employer Leadership Summit.
  • Identifying trend and best practices through our Annual Employer Benefits Survey.
  • Convening member meetings throughout the year that feature topics selected by our members.
  • Keeping members and friends apprised of breaking Action Group and health care industry news news through our newsletters and social media, so we can all face the future with confidence and solve for challenging health care issues.

I am gratified that we closed 2018 with a high level of achievement and are beginning the New Year with a renewed sense of passion and purpose. As Jane Goodall famously said, “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role. Every individual makes a difference.” This gets to the heart and soul of The Action Group. Without the commitment of members, trusted advisors, thought leaders, colleagues and friends, we could not have accomplished all that we did to improve value of health care for all Minnesotans. May 2019 bring you joy, success and inspiration!

*Member meeting presentations are available exclusively to Action Group members.

Not yet a member, or a member wondering how to become more involved with The Action Group? Visit “Getting Involved,” and “Join Now” on our homepage. Or contact a staff or Board member!

Carolyn Pare is President and CEO of the Minnesota Health Action Group.