Sunday, April 21, 2024

Anita Bachmann takes care of the needy’s health

By Margaret Moffett

Some day, North Carolina’s political leaders will agree on a budget that can adequately fund the state’s landmark transition in serving 2.1 million citizens insured by the federal Medicaid program. Then, it’s showtime for Anita Bachmann, who oversees UnitedHealthcare’s Medicaid operation, one of four managed-care groups set to administer a program touching about one in five residents.

It’s the latest career challenge for Bachmann, who has had various regional, state and national roles at the Minnetonka, Minn.-based company that is the nation’s largest health insurer — and second-largest in North Carolina behind Blue Cross and Blue Shield of N.C. Based at UnitedHealthcare’s Greensboro office for most of the last 26 years, she took her current post in June 2017. She describes her role as “spending time at community events, interacting, volunteering and learning from our members about how we can best support them.”

Indeed, Bachmann is a fixture in Greensboro’s nonprofit world. She is chairwoman of The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, which distributed $24.8 million to charities in 2018. Next year, she is slated to chair the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce.

In February, she was named to the 33-member NCWorks Commission, a board appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to recommend policies that boost the state’s workforce. The group focuses on critical issues impacting North Carolina’s economic vitality.

Bachmann, who has a master’s degree in health services administration from the Medical University of South Carolina, discussed her work with Business North Carolina.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in health care?

From the time I was in middle school and volunteered as a “candy striper” in the hospital, I wanted to be in health care. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.

What’s the most challenging part of your work?

Adapting to constant change. But it’s also the most exciting and rewarding. People have diverse needs, and there are many aspects of the delivery system that have to work together to meet those needs.

My focus is on getting a better understanding of our population by looking at their needs holistically, beyond just medical, and also developing solutions for their behavioral, functional and social needs.

What do you spend most of your time doing?

Networking and relationship-building is where I spend a lot of time — meeting with people who provide health care services and people who receive them. Data and interoperability are important priorities in North Carolina when it comes down to making informed health care decisions, so I work closely with health care providers to get timely and accurate information.

I’m also frequently in contact with organizations and state agencies to talk about health issues that impact our communities. Food insecurity continues to greatly impact the health of our communities; North Carolina ranks No. 41 nationally in food insecurity. Our rural neighbors have the additional challenge of accessing fresh foods like milk and produce.

[UnitedHealthcare] works with food bank partners throughout the state.

How does N.C. Medicaid compare nationally in health outcomes and costs?

Our state has been a leader in developing an innovative, progressive Medicaid program focusing on the whole-person health of the individual, which includes health care services and expands to address the social needs like transportation, access to healthy foods and housing, [which] have a significant impact on a person’s overall health. The move to managed care in North Carolina highlights a trend toward integrated, whole-person care that looks at physical, social and behavioral health.

What is UHC doing to help rein in the cost of health care?

We have a distinctive role to play in the transformation that is underway to shape a more sustainable health system for the future.

This is an opportunity to demonstrate [UnitedHealthcare’s] focus on value-based care, a model based on achieving specific, agreed-upon health and financial measures that are tied directly to helping people live healthier lives. Care providers and payers are forming new types of relationships — and realizing greater interdependence — as health care becomes oriented around value and patient outcomes, rather than volume and transactions. Part of that effort involves reshaping the way we work with and reward our care providers.

Value-based care creates a more financially sustainable health care system because the focus is on total cost of care, which creates accountability across the entire health care system. With every health professional and facility supporting a person’s care, it points us to the best action to take at the patient and physician level. And when it all comes together, we can improve the health of the people we serve.

What can you accomplish by serving on the NCWorks Commission?

I was drawn to NCWorks because of its clear vision. It’s all about building a job-ready workforce that will strengthen existing businesses, attract new businesses and industries, and make sure the state can adapt to a changing economic landscape.

What are the most pressing workforce issues in the Triad?

To be successful, we have to look holistically at the entire community. That’s why I work with the [Greensboro] Chamber of Commerce, The Community Foundation [of Greater Greensboro] and Triad employers to understand the gaps we face. There’s an identified connection between key social determinants — like employment, housing, transportation, and financial stability and poor health — and a community’s overall health. NCWorks is working to address this at all levels.

For example, 45% of Triad residents ages 25 to 64 have postsecondary credentials. Because it’s so important that we offer a trained workforce, NCWorks’ goal is to raise that to 60% by 2030.

How does your work in the community align with your job?

Health is impacted by more than what happens in the doctor’s office. Our real focus is on the health of the community. Yes, including medical health, but also the growth and vitality of the community from an economic, environmental and social perspective. To that point, we believe that we’re overspending on health care and underspending on social services, which medicalizes social problems.

We achieve better health through building relationships. And that happens by building trust to create a high-performing health care ecosystem. The way people consume health care should differ to meet their individualized needs, but it should always be high-quality care.

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