The Year of Access
Recently, the Connecticut Health Foundation sponsored a panel, “Opportunities for Moving the Needle on Health Equity in 2013”. It featured Patricia Baker, President and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation, Teresa Younger, Executive Director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and Judith Blei, founder of a Government Relations firm. The panel was attended by a couple dozen alumni and current members of the Health Leadership Fellows Program.
Pat Baker set the tone for the discussion, referring to 2013 as the year of access. As the Affordable Care Act gets more fully implemented, Medicaid eligibility gets expanded and the health insurance exchange gets going, more people will have access to health insurance. Yet there are many questions remaining about who will get access to what.
Will the exchange provide access to cost effective health insurance policies that meet the exchange’s goals of increasing the number of insured CT residents, improving health care quality, lowering costs and reducing health disparities while providing an exceptional consumer experience? Will the policies be inexpensive enough to get people to sign up while comprehensive enough to improve health? Having insurance isn’t enough. There need to be providers that will see the newly insured. Also, there is the issue of people who still aren’t covered, like undocumented immigrants.
Yet the bigger question for all of the health leadership fellows was what they could do to make sure that the changes taking place would, in fact, reduce health disparities, especially in a year of tight budgets. This is where the words of Teresa Younger and Judy Blei came in. It is important for people to establish relationships with their elected officials. It is important for non-profits to know what they can and can’t do to influence legislation.
Underlying all of this is the importance of people working together to bring about meaningful changes. This reflects one of the most important aspects of access. People interested in addressing health disparities need to connect with one another. While there were many important ideas shared during the panel, the access to other health leadership fellows working on reducing health disparities was one of the most important parts of the panel, the lunch that followed and the health leaders fellowship program as a whole.
Other Fellows share what they took away from yesterday’s panel: