Connecting For Change
As director of government relations for the American Heart Association in South Carolina, Carolyn Bivona attends plenty of meetings. But when she was asked to participate in a collaborative effort around health reform, she readily signed up.
Bivona is one of nearly 200 people coming together in South Carolina to develop a state plan for implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Congress passed in March 2010. Through nine public-private workgroups that include 75 statewide organizations, participants are working to understand the complex law and look for federal grant opportunities.
“We come together with some differences of opinion,” Bivona says, “but we’re able to focus on what we can do to improve the health of people in South Carolina.”
The South Carolina Public Health Institute and South Carolina Healthcare Voices are leading the workgroup effort. A former commissioner of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and a former director of the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services are acting as co-chairs. The Duke Endowment is supporting the initiative through a grant to the Public Health Institute.
The participants are diverse stakeholders, says Lee Pearson, the institute’s director, “but they all came together to figure out the best plan for South Carolina.”
Bivona, who’s on three workgroups, agrees. “Of course it’s time-consuming to attend the meetings, but it’s given me the opportunity to connect with new partners and re-connect with others,” she says. “When I talk to my colleagues across the country, everyone is so impressed with what we’re doing here.”
The N.C. Effort
In North Carolina, a similar effort was launched through the North Carolina Institute of Medicine.
“It became clear early on that this bill was bigger than any one group or individual could really put their hands around,” says Pam Silberman, the institute’s president and CEO.
Some 260 people are involved in workgroups, including elected officials, state agency leaders, business executives, health care providers, insurers, funders and consumers. Leading the initiative is an overall advisory group chaired by the insurance commissioner and the secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The Endowment is supporting the project by participating in a collaborative with other North Carolina health funders.
Silberman believes that much is at stake. “Everyone in the state,” she says, “is going to be affected by how well we implement this law over the next four years.”