Forging ahead toward equitable access – and better health

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a time to honor an inspirational leader and celebrate his work, but it is also a time to reflect on the work that remains to achieve equality and social justice in our communities. As one of the top 20 health plans in the country, Point32Health has an opportunity and responsibility to champion health equity, ensuring access to high-quality, affordable health care for everyone.

With health being a fundamental human right that makes leading our most fulfilling lives possible, work towards health equity is critical. Dr. King powerfully emphasized this importance in a presentation at the second National Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in 1966.  “Of all forms of discrimination and inequalities, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman,” he said.

I made the intentional decision to shift my career from financial services to health care back in 2010, inspired in part by the Affordable Care Act and the opportunity it represented for expanding health coverage to more Americans. Today, as President and CEO of Point32Health, and a founding member of the Health Equity Compact (the Compact), a Massachusetts coalition of health care leaders with lived experience, I see the opportunity we have to transform our region from an equity perspective. Through collaboration, learning and action, we are committed to working with those who see this as a moral, economic and health priority.

As the only health plan in Massachusetts that serves every segment of the market, we also have a deep and intimate understanding of the critical disparities that exist in our health care system, from access to delivery and everything in between. Our diverse member population with varied needs means that improving health equity isn’t just a talking point, it is central to everything we do.

To achieve our health equity vision, Point32Health is committed to advancing social impact throughout the region by focusing on initiatives that create equitable access to health care. Through programs and collaborations, we address some of the most pressing health issues in our region: maternal health, rural health care, mental health, LGBTQIA inclusive care and social determinants of health, such as food insecurity. Some examples of this work in action include our collaboration with Ariadne Labs to improve safety and equity in childbirth, and our work with Included Health to provide a diverse range of care navigation and resources to health plan members with LGBTQIA related needs.

Point32Health is also uniquely positioned to leverage forward-thinking research around disparities in the health care system through our 30-year partnership with the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, a research and teaching collaboration between Point32Health and Harvard Medical School. The Institute’s Department of Population Medicine is the nation’s first medical school appointing department based in a health plan. Their work has helped to inform and evaluate new and innovative strategies for Point32Health to implement for our members that center on high-value, evidence-based care while working to improve health equity.

And we take pride in the fact that Point32Health’s Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan are the first plans in our region, and among a few in our nation, to receive the Health Equity Accreditation from the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA).

For our organization to be successful in guiding and empowering healthier lives for everyone, our workplace culture must represent our shared values and embrace equity. I call this working with a “health equity mindset” so that our efforts do not sit within one area of the organization, but rather are an area of focus for each colleague, regardless of role.  It was a proud moment in 2023 when were released our first Point32Health Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility (DEIA) & Health Equity Report which highlights examples of how we are working together to build a lasting community of care by cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Dr. King’s leadership legacy is celebrated for his courage, persistence and ability to inspire others. Perhaps, most importantly, he understood that dismantling inequality was a fight that could not be won alone. I often come back to his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech when considering the immense undertaking of advancing health equity locally and beyond.  “We cannot walk alone,” he said. “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

Point32Health’s commitment to health equity remains steadfast but no one organization can solve it alone. It requires collaboration across companies, governmental entities, lawmakers and nonprofit organizations in the community at large. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come thanks to his astounding leadership and perseverance. It’s also an opportunity to remind ourselves, as well our colleagues and communities, that we must strive do better – and together, we can.