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Updated: July 24, 2023 On the record

On the Record: New head of Healthcare Purchaser Alliance has a lot on his plate

Photo / Jim Neuger Trevor Putnoky is the new president and CEO of the Healthcare Purchaser Alliance, a Falmouth-based nonprofit that seeks to advance health care quality, affordability and access in Maine.

Trevor Putnoky recently succeeded Peter Hayes as president and CEO of the Healthcare Purchaser Alliance, a Falmouth-based nonprofit with an annual budget of around $1.5 million. He’s one of six staff members and hopes to hire someone for his former position as director of membership and communications in coming months to be back at seven employees. Mainebiz caught up with the University of New England alumnus to find out more.

Mainebiz: What is the Healthcare Purchaser Alliance and who are your members?

Trevor Putnoky: The Healthcare Purchaser Alliance is a nonprofit created by Maine employers and public trusts to advance health care quality, affordability and access in our state. Our membership is quite diverse, but the common thread is that they’re all frustrated by the high cost of health care, and they want to find ways to make the system work better for the people in our state.

MB: What do you see as health care’s top challenges in Maine and why?

TP: The No. 1 issue we need to confront in Maine is cost — Maine has the highest individual deductibles in the country and the highest prevalence of high-deductible plans right now. Employers and their employees are paying more and getting less, and it’s leading to a lot of tough decisions. The other big challenges we face are access in rural parts of the state, our aging population, variations in quality, and consolidation in the provider market.

MB: What strides have you made in bringing greater transparency to health care costs?

TP: Transparency is part of the DNA of our organization. We were created to measure and publicly report on provider cost and quality metrics so patients and employers can make informed decisions about care. As time has gone on, others — particularly the federal government — have stepped up to fill the void of information. Today, there’s a wealth of data out there, and it’s more about helping people find and use it.

MB: You’ve talked about giving smaller employers a greater voice in the Legislature. How?

TP: Employers in general haven’t traditionally had a cohesive voice on health care issues in the Legislature, which is surprising given they’re the ones paying the majority of health care costs, so we’re stepping up to be their voice. Our members provide health coverage to around 150,000 Mainers, or about a quarter of the commercially insured, so when they weigh in on how a piece of legislation is going to impact them, I think legislators pay attention.

MB: What can you share about your organization’s efforts to provide behavioral health services to Maine employers?

TP: At the start of the pandemic, it became clear that the need for behavioral health services was far greater than the supply. I tried finding a therapist myself, and after calling more than a dozen providers who were all full, I just gave up. It was an incredibly frustrating experience, and it’s an experience that I’m sure is playing out in households around the state. Part of what we do at the Alliance is group purchasing, so we started looking around for practices and vendors that could help solve the access problem for our members. Luckily, we found WellSpace Maine, a behavioral health practice [in Portland and Yarmouth] that works directly with employers to ensure timely access to services, and it has been an amazing resource. WellSpace works directly with employers to provide guaranteed access to in-person and virtual care within five days of the patient reaching out.

MB: How can Maine’s rural hospitals survive?

TP: Ultimately, I think we need a dialogue about what we want our rural hospitals to be for the communities they serve. I don’t think it’s sustainable for them to be mini versions of the large tertiary care hospitals. It will be a difficult conversation, for sure, but I think there’s an opportunity to better align our state’s health care infrastructure with the needs of rural people to improve access, cost and quality.

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