Jim Tallon: Making Change Work
The 2013 Annual Report Essay
For more than 130 years, the United Hospital Fund has worked to meet New York’s health care needs as they changed with and reflected each era: raising funds for the care of indigent patients and creating vital institutions like the Greater New York Hospital Association and Empire BlueCross BlueShield; responding early to the AIDS crisis; taking a lead, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, in enrolling hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in Disaster Relief Medicaid.
This report marks my 20th year as president of the Fund. The story line now, as in the past, is of how the Fund is meeting today’s unique challenges by shaping workable, sustainable change.
While 2012-13 has seen the city and the nation emerging from a great recession, the structural, economic, and social divisions that challenge American society are still clear. Limited access to care, without insurance, is still a reality for many. Report after report documents the unevenness of health care quality, despite an increasingly high tech environment. Health care is an important part of the engine of economic recovery, but it must adopt new policies and strategies to reduce costs that are proving unaffordable to both individuals and the economy.
FROM PROMISE TO PRACTICE
The long-awaited policy reforms passed in Washington and Albany hold out great promise. But the challenge is making these potentially enormous changes work. And that is the focus of this year’s annual report—how we at the Fund engage with today’s most important health care issues and their impact on the real people they affect.
- After taking on the challenge of helping the State create its health benefit exchange, now named New York State of Health, we have begun to look beyond the new marketplace’s administrative complexities to the broader structural changes that will affect how all of us obtain insurance.
- Collaborating with hospitals across the region, we have advanced remarkable improvements in patient safety and the quality of care.
- We’ve provided detailed analyses that are underpinning New York’s dramatic reform of its Medicaid program, as the State creates new ways of coordinating care for the most complex, costly patients.
- Our work to spotlight the family caregiver—as not only a support to the patient but also an essential partner to health care providers—has taken an important, nationally recognized step forward.
- We’ve built new linkages and community support as part of a model approach to managing chronic illness.
- And—at a time when health care is being reorganized, financing dramatically restructured, meaningful information technology spreading, and patients more likely than ever to be engaged in managing their health—we have launched initiatives to uncover and support the most promising on-the-ground innovations.
In each of these cases, our goals are simple: to make change work, to support the development of public policies that are sensitive to the enormous complexity of changing institutional and personal behavior, and to support those on health care’s front lines as they strive to improve the way they deliver care.
BUILDING FOR TOMORROW
Coming to the Fund 20 years ago, my goal was to build on its long-respected strengths: to make it even more effective in helping shape public policy choices, and in meaningfully supporting practitioners, payers, and patients in ways that the changing health care environment demanded. I wanted to ensure that the Fund would be the organization essential to the current generation of stakeholders as they sought to bring about positive change.
The pages of our 2013 annual report highlight six Fund activities of this past year, all guided by the challenge of being substantive, timely, and relevant. We hope you will explore further, on our website, www.uhfnyc.org, for a fuller picture of our work and its impact.
All our initiatives are both outgrowths and emblematic of our times, and of the Fund’s role in New York’s health care world. All demonstrate the constructive, responsible opportunities now at hand to build a health care system that serves us all well.