Quality of care will continue at Group Health under Kaiser

There continues to be a lot of discussion in our communities about Group Health’s possible acquisition by Kaiser Permanente and how that transaction would impact local access to care and coverage. It’s a timely discussion for our region given the Everett Clinic’s recent merger with DaVita HealthCare Partners and the continued national coverage of the evolving healthcare industry.

As a nurse for 45 years, I know first-hand how challenging it is for health care organizations to provide patients with high-quality care. As an active Group Health member for more than 24 years, I know Group Health has had to make changes to stay true to its mission of providing the best care to the most people at the most affordable price as well. I believe the potential acquisition by Kaiser Permanente will allow Group Health to continue to fulfill its mission in our communities and plan to vote in favor of the acquisition at the special meeting on Jan. 30, and when I receive my ballot next month.

Supporting the Group Health acquisition means embracing our local access to care and coverage. Kaiser plans to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to improve Group Health’s care delivery system, including facility and technology upgrades. Not only will this investment allow Group Health to improve its current clinics, but it will position it for future growth and the possibility of expanding care to new communities it hasn’t been able to serve.

Kaiser also plans to invest $800 million over the next 10 years in community benefit, which includes charity care and other community health initiatives that improve access for people who need it most. That includes offering Medicaid plans, which will be the only non-profit option in Washington. In addition, the proceeds from the acquisition will establish a new Group Health Community Foundation, which will be the largest non-profit in the state dedicated to serving local needs. This foundation will run independent of Kaiser and continue the Group Health name, mission and legacy in our community for generations to come.

Group Health consistently outperforms other health plans and providers in the state on its quality scores. Kaiser does the same at the national level, leading the country in health care quality. Kaiser plans account for half of all Medicare 5-star plans in the nation, and more than 80 percent of all Medicare 5-star plan enrollees are enrolled in Kaiser plans. That’s the kind of quality we deserve in Snohomish County and Washington.

Finally, supporting the acquisition allows us to continue to have a voice in how we access our care. As a long-standing voting member who has invested many years and countless hours participating in Group Health’s cooperative governance, I don’t take the decision to turn over our independent and member-driven structure lightly. I am pleased that Kaiser will continue to offer us the ability to impact governance through a local board, a consumer advisory council and a continuation of our Senior Caucus, all of which will provide input on health care quality issues. Kaiser uses a local governing structure in its other regions, which allows it to make decisions based on the needs of those communities and to provide care locally.

The health care industry will continue to evolve and health care organizations will continue to struggle to provide the best care and coverage to their patients amid rising costs, competition for resources, and physician and other health care provider staffing shortages. Group Health is taking proactive steps to ensure our region continues to have access to affordable, quality health care, and I believe that this acquisition is necessary for Group Health to continue serving our community and the state.

I will be voting in favor of the acquisition and strongly urge other Group Health members to do the same.

Mim Edelstein is a resident of Edmonds, an active Group Health member and a retired nurse.

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