Boston (May 3rd, 2016) Moving away from a traditional fundraising gala, Health Care For All convened consumers, government officials, health care executives, business leaders and other stakeholders to celebrate its annual For The People event, and to help move the organization’s policy agenda forward.
“We pivoted this year from a traditional sit-down gala to a dynamic conversation that engages hundreds of supporters and consumers. We did away with large seated tables, lovely (but expensive) centerpieces, and unread program books. Instead, we created an experience for participants as they discussed what it means to create and support a health care system that puts the diverse needs of patients and families at its center,”said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, Executive Director of Health Care For All.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders welcomed the attendees, and encouraged participants to join the conversations, occurring across the room simultaneously. Those interactions were captured in myriad ways, from live tweets to graphic recording artists creating giant murals.
The talks focused on end-of-life care, care that respects cultural and religious values, the intersection of cost and quality in healthcare, and how patients can be at the center of an integrated team of providers. Key conversation starters included Andrew Dreyfus, President & CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield Massachusetts, Rev. Dr. Jennie R. Gould, Boston Medical Center Chaplain, Lynn Quincy from the Consumers Union, and Rushika Fernandopulle, M.D., co-founder and CEO of Iora Health.
“Talking about end-of-life care is often uncomfortable and easy to avoid,” said Andrew Dreyfus, President & CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “There is still too wide a gap between the kind of care we want and what we usually receive. We’re working on ways to establish clear communication and regular advanced planning between families and clinicians. This will help ensure that care for our loved ones reflects their values, preferences, and needs.”
“Consumers need to have reliable, timely information on the prices and quality of their doctors, hospitals and treatments choices to keep them safer, informed and more financially secure when using healthcare and buying health insurance,” said Lynn Quincy, Director, Healthcare Value Hub of the Consumers Union, and added: “But we can’t rely solely on patients to fix what’s wrong in our health care system – the focus must include providers, as well as drug and device manufactures, who set the prices we end up paying.”
“A big problem in health care in general, and maybe health care in Boston in particular, is that it is ‘authority-centric’. We need to make sure our patients are in charge. That’s who we work for, that’s who – in the end – pays us as physicians. We have health coaches who are from the community, work for the patients, and are close to them. People closest to the care come up with all the good ideas, not the providers necessarily. We just need to allow it to happen,” said Dr. Rushika Fernandopulle from Iora Health.
Discussions on their different topics were moderated by David Seltz, Executive Director of the Health Policy Commission, Dr. Joel Weissman from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Jacquie Anderson, Chief Operating Officer at Community Catalyst.
The John Auerbach Community Leadership award was provided to Ms. Anh Vu Sawyer, Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Coalition. Based in Worcester, Anh is on the front lines of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers into the United States and connecting them to culturally competent health care and other vital social services. The award was bestowed upon her by U.S. Senator Ed Markey.
“Anh and her colleagues are making a tremendous difference in the lives of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the Greater Worcester area. They have become key partners for Health Care For All as we have embarked together in ambitious and successful campaigns to inform residents from different ethnic backgrounds about their health care options,” said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer.
“It is an honor to receive this award from Health Care For All. From the first time I heard about that organization, I knew that there was a lot of synergy in our missions and that we would have a fruitful partnership,” said Anh Vu Sawyer, Executive Director of the Southeast Asian Coalition. “The needs of the Greater Worcester community are great, especially when it comes to newcomers. Connecting them to the health care they nee, including access to physical checkups but also behavioral health services, is a priority for us as we help them adapt to their new life.”
Health Care For All took a giant step forward tonight, and financial supporters and sponsors made an investment with far more lasting power than the organization has ever offered.
Health Care For All (HCFA) is a Massachusetts nonprofit advocacy organization working to create a health care system that provides comprehensive, affordable, accessible, and culturally competent care to everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us. We achieve this as leaders in public policy, advocacy, education and service to consumers in Massachusetts. Learn more at www.hcfama.org.
María R. González Albuixech, Director of Strategy and Communications