January 06, 2006

The initial organizing meeting of the Santa Clara County Health Benefits Coalition took place on Friday, January 6 at the Kirsch Center on the campus of De Anza College in Cupertino. We had nearly 50 attendees representing most of the cities, school and special districts in the county present, including both staff and elected officials. I'll post the full list of participants sometime next week once I get the spreadsheet.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Jim Beall kicked off the session with a passionate appeal that explained the need for local and regional collaboration among public agencies to address rising healthcare costs. Jim's talk was followed by presentations from Cherrie Rosenquist, a human resources professional who leads the innovative Bay Area Medical Review Consortium, Corrine Couch, from the pioneering Santa Clara County Schools Insurance Group, Kara LaPierre, from the Santa Clara County Leadership Group (formerly the Manufacturing Group) and Tom Moore, on loan from SEIU to the California Heath Care Coalition, a statewide labor-led group currently in formation. (Tom passed around some interesting documents, including a position statement for his group, a FAQ, some examples of successes elsewhere and a sample comparison of hospital admissions in Stanislaus County).

The presentations illustrated different perspectives about the same problem, namely, that rising healthcare costs are overwhelming the budgets of public agencies. They also underscored the utility of building a strong local coalition to develop a regional strategy to contain healthcare costs and increase quality.

The attendees were given a sample resolution to take back to their public agencies for approval within 90 days. The resolution indicates their agencies' support and intent to participate in the Health Benefits Coalition and conveys a willingness to contribute a modest sum, not more than $2000 per agency, to a coordinating local non-profit organization to be identified later the proceeds of which will be used to hire a qualified grant writer to solicit funds for a two-year Public Agency Health Benefits Coalition regional pilot project. Attendees were also given a draft mission statement for the Health Benefits Coalition and were invited to make comments or suggestions prior to its formal adoption after the coalition is created.

I think the meeting went well but it is hard for me to say, having been right in the middle of it. Those attending seemed inclined to recommend participation to their agencies. Supervisor Beall and I will follow-up to solidify formal commitments of support and participation. We'll convene the Coalition's initial Steering Committee meeting as soon as we have a sufficient number of commitments in hand. Periodic updates will follow (corrections, amplifications, updates, ideas and suggestions are always, of course, more than welcome).