October 4, 2021

Connecting with Partners, Honoring Excellence: OAHP Annual Convention & Trade Show

After 2-1/2 long years, it was a great pleasure to once again gather in person with so many healthcare partners and providers at our annual convention in Columbus on Sept. 28 and 29. This event always has been a highlight of the OAHP year — an opportunity for thought leaders in our industry to share their insights on shaping the future of healthcare in Ohio.

Events scheduled for May 2020 and rescheduled for August 2020 were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, making the recent event our first return since May 2019.

I think it was worth the wait (and the scrupulous masking and social distancing). As always, our guests enjoyed thought-provoking discussion of the issues most pressing in our work and OAHP Board Chair Lori Johnston, had the honor of presenting the OAHP Pinnacle Awards, our way of recognizing and celebrating best practices among Ohio’s health plans. More about that below.

The fast-shifting landscape for state Medicaid programs — ranging from pandemic concerns and vaccination rates to 2022 redeterminations and the future of telehealth — was the backdrop for “What’s Keeping Medicaid Directors Up at Night?”, a kickoff by Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. Matt also discussed how racial and ethnic inequities affect Medicaid programs.

Myra Simon, a healthcare industry expert with Avalere Health, talked about the Biden administration’s healthcare policies and what they mean for commercial plans and their members. Her insight into the future of the Affordable Care Act should prove valuable to anyone engaged in this work.

More intel on the ACA, as well as state-level insurance law, regulation and compliance issues, came from attorney Doug Anderson of Squire Patton Boggs.  OAHP members have long relied on Doug’s proven legal expertise in our field.

Former Congressman Steve Stivers, recently named president and chief executive officer of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, focused on healthcare costs as a top concern for Ohio employers. His message: Ohio providers, health plans and health systems need to strive for greater affordability, and they can do so by focusing on transparency and outcomes.  Stivers shared his vision for a proactive healthcare policy agenda from the Chamber, and OAHP is excited to join him in that work.

We were also pleased to welcome Ohio Department of Insurance Director Judi French.  Director French discussed the Administration’s response to COVID-19, along with her vision for the Department and its focus on mental health parity.  Along with Assistant Director Carrie Haughawout, she answered questions from the plans related to surprise medical bills rules, among other topics.

Also addressing the need to lower costs, Ohio University’s Richard Hodges spoke of Ohio lawmakers’ focus, to date, on third-party payers. Hodges, a visiting professor and OU’s Health Policy Executive in Residence, proposes that costs could be lowered more readily by paying more attention to all  elements in the supply chain.

As always, we closed out with a fascinating look at the current politics of healthcare in Ohio with a panel discussion of Statehouse reporters. Led by Dan Williamson of Paul Werth Associates, the group included Jackie Borchardt, Ohio Bureau Chief for the USA Today Network,, Max Filby of The Columbus Dispatch, Jennifer Nickles of WBNS-10TV and Jake Zuckerman of Ohio Capital Journal.

The 2021 Pinnacle Awards competition brought to light many inspiring examples of our member plans finding new ways to address challenges in healthcare. The awards went to Anthem and CareSource, for easing senior loneliness and improving digital equity:

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield was recognized for Member Connect, an outreach effort aimed at senior citizens who are socially isolated.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield: Member Connect

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield was recognized for Member Connect, an outreach effort aimed at senior citizens who are socially isolated. Senior loneliness is an epidemic that can increase the risk of mortality by as much as 45% due to depression, physical inactivity and poor medication adherence.

Anthem involved more than 5,500 Medicare Advantage members in the program, connecting each one with a social care partner and a “phone pal.” Social care partners connected members to community organizations that could help meet social and healthcare needs. Phone pals — volunteers among Anthem associates — called members once a week, providing a friendly voice and a check on their well-being.

In a survey, three-quarters or more of participants said they had become more active, felt they had more meaningful connections with people, and had a greater sense of joy and purpose. Increased activities included exercise, healthier eating and better medication adherence.

One member, a retired teacher, told Anthem she rarely left her home because she was insecure about her chronic health conditions, her lack of transportation and even her dentures. She was intimated by the prospect of interacting with healthcare providers.

Her Member Connect partners spent many weeks building a relationship of trust with her; her phone pal even helped her practice for a doctor’s appointment through role play. The woman was so successful at eating healthier, losing weight and controlling her chronic condition that she now is helping others, by leading social groups.


CareSource, noting that 24% of Dayton households lack internet access, helped launch and coordinate the Dayton-Montgomery County Digital Equity Initiative.

CareSource: Dayton-Montgomery County Digital Equity Initiative

CareSource, noting that 24% of Dayton households lack internet access, helped launch and coordinate the Dayton-Montgomery County Digital Equity Initiative. The program, initially funded by a $2 million CARES Act grant, distributed 902 laptops and provided broadband access to nearly 1,900 residents of five low-income housing communities.

CareSource provided volunteers to distribute the devices and contributed $400,000 to support the project’s long-term sustainability.

The ultimate goal was to address social determinants of health by giving members better access to online workforce development and education, but CareSource recognized the need to focus on digital literacy first and quickly pivoted.

Internet access through the initiative helped members overcome barriers to public health and safety information, telehealth and remote employment. And the direct digital link to members helped CareSource improve COVID-19 vaccination among participating members. More than 200 attended a vaccination event at which 76 people got their first vaccine doses, and 61 people used $25 gift cards to buy healthy food at an on-site mobile grocery.

CareSource plans to advance the program with more telehealth options, digital literacy training and enabling text messaging for member engagement.

My thanks go to everyone who helped make the convention a success. We are especially appreciative of the support from our Platinum Sponsors and vendors without whom the convention could not happen.  We’re already thinking about next year!