Engaging and Sustaining

07 May 2014
Employers are the largest purchasers of health care in the United States, insuring more than 55 percent of the population. Excessive, ineffective, or harmful care costs a typical employer between $1,900 and $2,250 per employee every year. The Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q) initiative in New Mexico, led by the New Mexico Coalition for Healthcare Quality, is bringing employers together to help lower costs and improve the quality of care in the state.
Through the AF4Q initiative, the New Mexico Coalition has engaged many of the employers in the area to form the region’s first business coalition to address health care issues—the Business Health Advisory Group (BHAG). The multi-stakeholder group consists of more than 15 employers, including the City of Albuquerque, Albuquerque Public Schools, Sandia National Laboratories, and the University of New Mexico. The BHAG has a flexible, structured, and sustainable approach to moving forward with employer engagement. The two-tiered structure of the BHAG meets the needs of both small and large employers. Soon the structure will include a dues arrangement with the goal of strategically growing the BHAG membership and helping the Alliance transition to a sustainable organization. The BHAG meets regularly to develop strategies for supporting the Alliance’s work and to share best practices for encouraging employees to improve their health and health care.
The group discusses value-based purchasing, wellness programing, identifying high cost drivers, and more. 
“Of all of the employer groups involved in health care, this group [BHAG] has the greatest opportunity for sustainability because of the commitment of its employers and their desire to make a real difference to health care in New Mexico,” said Greg Lucero, manager of benefits and human resources information systems for PNM Resources.
The Alliance is bringing employer engagement to the forefront in other activities as well. The group recently facilitated a College for Value-Based Purchasing of Health Benefits event. The program was geared toward helping employee benefit managers meet the growing challenges of providing high-quality health benefits while managing rising benefit costs. The sessions were practical and intensive, and focused on purchasing techniques and skills that emphasized improving the value, quality-cost ratio, and effectiveness of health care services purchased on behalf of employees.
Additionally, the Alliance hosted a Care About Your Care event on employers’ roles in care transitions. A Robert Wood Johnson initiative, Care About Your Care started in 2011. The event brought New Mexico employers into the national conversation around improving care transitions to reduce avoidable hospital readmissions and how this could reduce costs for their organizations.
“AF4Q funding was the seed that allowed these efforts to come together. Employer engagement could be a key to sustainability for our efforts in New Mexico,” said Patricia Montoya, project director of AF4Q New Mexico.
Employers have the potential to inspire real, lasting change in the health of their communities and in the health care system. They can shape the way their employees manage their health and choose their doctors and hospitals, and AF4Q New Mexico is helping to show them how.