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Sunday, 12 October 2014 22:00

Course shift at Alliance for Health causes supporters — MSU included — to rethink membership

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The Alliance for Health, after more than six decades as a health care planning agency for West Michigan, has begun a charting a new course that may lead to it forming a private health insurance exchange to quote and market policies to member employers.

The move has generated contention within the Alliance for Health ranks, as some directors have stepped down and the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine withdrew its membership.

Alliance for Health Board of Directors Chairman Don Hall could not offer specifics on the direction the nonprofit organization is pursuing. He said directors are “only partially into where we want to hit.”

Potential changes are under legal review and more information could come “in the not too distant” future, Hall said.

“We are in the process of redesigning the business model for the Alliance for Health,” he said. “We’re looking at our different options related to how we do business.”

The options under consideration include the formation of a private health insurance exchange, according to MSU and a copy of a presentation obtained by MiBiz that outlines the idea.

Citing the potential change in the organization’s mission, MSU College of Human Medicine Dean Marsha Rappley resigned from the Alliance for Health’s board of directors.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have represented Michigan State University College of Human Medicine for nearly four years as a member of the Alliance for Health Board. The MSU College of Human Medicine has been engaged with the Alliance for Health as a result of its focus on health issues in the community,” Rappley said in a statement. “The recent decision by the board of directors to change the focus of the Alliance for Health’s mission to become actively engaged in the health care marketplace through the creation of a health exchange precludes my further participation on their board and MSU’s sponsorship of their future activities.”

Rappley isn’t alone in stepping down from the Alliance for Health board. Joe Gavan of Potomac Ventures LLC in Grand Rapids resigned this month as well, and he said other directors have stepped down, too.

“The Alliance is headed in a new direction that I can no longer support,” Gavan said. “I don’t believe that it is consistent with the mission of the Alliance, nor does it honor the tradition or impact the Alliance has had on the community.”

The Alliance for Health advocates on health care quality, cost and access in West Michigan and for generations has served as a convener that brings together care providers, insurers, employers and other parties in the health care industry to address issues.

The Alliance for Health’s long-time president, Lody Zwarensteyn, stepped down and retired earlier this year after 42 years with the organization. He was succeeded by Paul Brand.

Chairman Hall said coming changes at the Alliance for Health are driven by a 2011 strategic planning process that identified the need to generate greater value for members.

“We discovered what we really had to do for the membership was offer them value,” Hall said. “Rather than give the public the impression, ‘look we’re here with a cup and our hand out, please give us money,’ we felt in order to maintain our viability and meaningfulness to the community, we needed to look at different approaches to take to provide value to the membership and the community.”

Directors looked at “several different ideas on how to do this (and) to give the membership value in exchange for their donations,” Hall said.

Creating a private health exchange and other changes in the Alliance for Health would “dramatically” alter its mission, said Phil Weaver, a director at the organization and the CEO of Hope Network in Grand Rapids.

Weaver said he’s undecided on the idea for a health exchange.

“I don’t know enough about it to say if it’s going to work or not work or if it’s the right thing to do,” Weaver said.

The Alliance for Health also conducts local reviews of health care projects that fall under state certificate-of-need (CON) regulations and issues recommendations to the Michigan Department of Community Health for approval or denial.

That role could change as well.

Results of a membership survey could determine whether the Alliance for Health remains in the CON business.

“That particular process is under review,” Hall said. “Looking at the Alliance’s role in the certificate-of-need process, is that giving value to the membership?”


Read 2891 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 October 2014 22:55

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