President’s Blog: The View from Here

  • Non-Partisan, but Not Neutral

    Sep 21, 2015 | Christopher F. Koller, President

    Bipartisanship in health policy is hard to find. Pick your topic—Medicaid expansion, Medicare reform, or health insurance exchanges—and voices are shrill, slogans are wielded like swords, and opinions ossified. Powered by easy ideologies and campaign cash, the outcomes of partisanship are misunderstandings, distrust, and a lack of progress on important issues. The Milbank Memorial Fund, in … Read more

  • Improving State Health Policy Leadership

    Aug 17, 2015 | Christopher F. Koller, President

    You would think a billion-dollar-a-year organization that pays its chief 20% of the market rate and turns that role over every two years—as is the case with state Medicaid programs—might start to consider the importance of leadership. Leadership also seems important for a public health agency charged with guarding the safety of food, water, and patient care, or a child welfare or human … Read more

  • They Called It “Secret,” We Call It “Confidential”

    Jul 21, 2015 | Christopher F. Koller, President

    “Secret Health-Law Huddle.” The headline made me shudder. It appeared in a national newspaper, describing a meeting hosted by the Milbank Memorial Fund. “Secret” implied scandal where there was none. That the meeting happened was no secret. The proceedings were, however, confidential. Yes, we had a meeting. No, we weren’t going to talk about what was said. There is a world of nuance … Read more

  • “Oh, Baltimore. Man, It’s Hard Just to Live”

    Jun 16, 2015 | Christopher F. Koller, President

    Randy Newman had it right 28 years ago and today—judging from recent events in Baltimore. Riots tore apart the city at the end of April in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death in police custody, and the after-effects continue to ripple. Homicides in May of this year were 50% higher than May of last year driven, some say, by the large amounts of drugs in circulation looted from 27 pharmacies and … Read more

  • Why Can’t We Be Friends? The Challenge of Public-Private Collaborations that Improve Health Care

    May 20, 2015 | Christopher F. Koller, President

    State health policymakers face more work than they can handle now. Delivery system reform. Medicaid sustainability and expansion. Affordable Care Act (ACA) implementation. The latest public health issue. Angry constituents. When can they collaborate with private sector leaders working on some of the same issues? The Fund, with the help of the Network for Regional Health Improvement, recently … Read more

  • No Longer Trying to Have it Both Ways: Measuring Total Health Care Costs

    Apr 15, 2015 | Christopher F. Koller, President

    Welcome to health care’s economic wonderland: “Health care costs are killing employers and the government budget.” “Health care jobs are the key to our economic recovery.” “We want to lure more high-paying biotech jobs into our community.” These contradictory statements often peacefully coexist in the magical reality of this wonderland. When I was health insurance … Read more

  • Keeping Lives Safe: the Australian Way

    Mar 12, 2015 | Christopher F. Koller, President

    Along the coast of Australia, every community has its own Surf Life-Saving Club (SLSC), a voluntary club that trains and certifies residents to patrol the beaches. Most have their own building overlooking the surf—and get some support from the local municipality, akin to our voluntary fire departments. SLSCs are ubiquitous—especially on crowded suburban beaches. SLSC members walk around the … Read more

  • Transforming Primary Care: The March Continues

    Feb 2, 2015 | Christopher F. Koller, President

    Improving population health by building more and better primary care in the United States might be considered an exercise in what a nun I once met called, “the theology of the long haul.” I am not sure we have God on our side here, but we do have evidence—much of it published in The Milbank Quarterly by research titans like Barbara Starfield. The evidence is clear—the foundation of any high … Read more

  • “Doing Population Health”: Teaching a Pig to Sing?

    Jan 28, 2015 | Christopher F. Koller, President

    “Don’t try to teach a pig to sing, Chris,” a colleague once advised me, quoting the well-known saying. “You won’t succeed and you will only tick off the pig.” The image of singing swine seems particularly apt right now as we look at the question of whether medical providers can practice “population health.” A recent op-ed in The Milbank Quarterly and presentations about community health and … Read more

  • What’s on the Minds of the States?

    Dec 19, 2014 | Christopher F. Koller, President

    Put a bunch of state leaders in a room, kick out the hangers-on, close the door, and ask them where they need help in health policy. What do they say? This is not a hypothetical question. The Milbank Memorial Fund did just that for three weeks in a row last month. And the responses were illuminating. The occasion was the fall meetings of the Fund’s Reforming States Group (RSG), a group with a … Read more