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Advocates Plan Course Forward on Health Care at 2018 Fight Like Health Summit

On March 27th, Florida Voices for Health hosted it's second annual Fight Like Health Summit in St. Petersburg. The day-long conference featured the latest updates on health care reform, but also served as a call to action to those working to improve our health care system.

Last year, the focus of the national health care debate was stopping major cuts to Medicaid and defending the gains in coverage we've made since 2010. While this work was ultimately crucial, we lost sight of real solutions to improve access to affordable, quality health care for hardworking Floridians.

The 2018 Fight Like Health Summit was the start of a different, more forward-looking conversation.

In the morning session, Patrick Finnerty (PWF Consulting) and Ethan Chernin (BayCare Physician Partners), shared insights on efforts to address two of health care's biggest problems: access and costs. Mr. Finnerty, former Medicaid director of Virginia, highlighted the growing number of states experimenting with harmful Medicaid policies. He stressed the need to stay vigilant against work requirements, but also the need for Florida to accept Medicaid expansion funds. Mr. Chernin, whose expertise is in managing health delivery systems, explained how providers, hospitals, and community organizations are creating formal networks to provide more efficient care and lower costs. The collaboration between the partners of these clinically integrated networks (CIN) have been proven to reduce hospital readmissions and costlier visits to the emergency room.

CINs are a great example of the holistic approach we believe is needed to fix the problems in the American health care system. Our late morning session on the social determinants of health continued this theme.The session opened with remarks from Rev. Dr. Russell L. Meyer who introduced us to the concept of whole communities. It was followed by a panel discussion featuring four leaders ( Andrea Peaten, FL DoH-Pinellas; Karen Clay, Florida Alliance for Assisitve Services and Technology; Lolita Dash-Pitts, Front Porch Community Development Association, Inc; Rev. James T. Golden, Mount Zion AME Church) from St. Pete and Tampa who shared their experiences serving communities with multiple unaddressed needs.

By the end we learned that we have a long way to go to alleviating all of the social barriers to good health. However, it begins by educating our communities, lawmakers, and our partners about the connections between our on issues. Also, to successfully build whole communities, community members need to be involved in identifying social barriers and in developing solutions.

The FVH Healthy Florida: St Pete Project, the subject of an afternoon breakout session, is built around this exact premise and objective. This pilot project in south St. Pete uses surveys to understand the social barriers causing the area's low rates of health care utilization. In partnership with the Community Healthcare Coalition and the Tampa Bay Health Care Collaborative, the project is focused on building the advocacy capacity of south St Pete residents. Armed with the findings of the survey, we hope to spark a grassroots campaign for positive change at the local level. At the summit, local organizations and leaders were invited to be thought partners which resulted in some exciting new connections. There is still time to get involved!

Finally, the day ended on a session about hope from the unlikeliest of sources: Medicaid expansion. The recent success of a ballot initiative in Maine and Medicaid's surging popularity in the wake of the effort to repeal the ACA hints at potential opportunities for Florida. Kelly Hall, former Senior Advisor in President Obama's Office of Health Reform, shared what she has learned while working with the fairness project on initiatives around the country, including Maine.

While advocates explore the possibility of a ballot initiative, FVH coalition partners can begin elevating Medicaid expansion with their supporters and legislators. As part of the #ProtectOurCare campaign in 2017 we messaged around the multiple aspects of Medicaid. Many of those messages are relevant in the context of expansion as well. Any campaign for expansion must be driven by the stories of the people it will impact. It is never too early to begin collecting those stories. If you’re interested in being a part of this campaign, email Louisa McQueeney at louisa@healthyfla.org.

Thanks to amazing partners the 2018 Fight Like Health Summit was a great success. Like last year, it will start the momentum we will turn into meaningful change. We look forward to having you along for the ride!

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