WHCC20 | Interviews

Merrill Friedman
Senior Director, Disability Policy Engagement

What is the top challenge or obstacle facing health care today?
Staying focused through all of the noise. It’s an election year, there is uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act and many other things people care about. B - but the whole reason we are in health care is to help people access affordable and equitable health care and services – and find ways to innovate and increase transparency. We must maintain focus on prioritizing people and their experiences.

What story or theme has impacted health care the most over the last two years?
The movement of people who are getting involved in the greater HC debate – women, people with disabilities, students, people who identify as LGBTQ, and others. This social movement and moral movement has impacted what we do in terms of advocacy.

On our team, we focus on how people’s real, lived experiences are impacted by health care and influence health care. It’s helping us be more person-centered. From there, we personalize options, whether it’s telehealth or home-based care or community-based care. We’re working to change the culture of health care. It’s not about making everyone come to you for health care services – that’s often not accessible. When you go to the people, it improves engagement, and it reduces the reliance on institutional care.

What has you most optimistic about the future of health care?
The focus on the drivers of health. Having access to employment, housing, or transportation, or supporting people who have experienced interpersonal violence, along with the focus on alternative payment models and costs, helps us develop solutions that are sustainable from a health benefits approach and not just a philanthropic approach.

What motivates you to keep doing the work that you do?
In a lot of ways, it’s personal – it’s my family, my friends, me. Health care is our future. We change our own outcomes every day by doing the work that we do – improving our ability to afford care, to access care, to make sure our friends can get support and remain independent in their communities.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring health care leader?
It’s not always about you. You have to get out there. Sometimes it’s removing privilege to make better decisions as a health care leader. It’s recognizing that what works for you doesn’t work for other people. It’s recognizing that innovation might be implementing more of a practical solution.

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