The mission of The Alliance is to move employer health care forward by controlling costs, improving quality, and engaging individuals in their health. Despite the challenges posed by a (seemingly never-ending) pandemic, our cooperative has made considerable strides towards accomplishing our goals over the past 12 months while also laying the groundwork for future success.

We want to begin this New Year by taking a moment to recap our accomplishments in 2021 and set new goals and expectations for our employers and their brokers in 2022.

Adding Employers

The Alliance is a cooperative, which means our biggest strength in improving employer health care is bolstering our purchasing power. Without a large and diverse community of employers, we wouldn’t be able to negotiate low rates or implement our unique contract provisions.

That said, we are proud to have added more than 50 employers to our cooperative in 2021.

The most significant boost to our membership came from The Northcentral Employers Healthcare Alliance’s (NEHA) decision to unite under the umbrella of The Alliance. While not every employer chose to join our 300+ employers and their 100,000+ lives, we warmly welcome the substantial number that did (or will in 2022).

Provider Expansion & Diversification

Likewise, a strong network of strategically located providers is necessary to service our large, Midwestern group of employers. Contracting with more providers improves employer health care by improving access to High-Value Health Care options and less surprise bills for their employees and family members.

In Wisconsin, we partnered with four additional Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) hospitals: one in Sheboygan, one in Oconto Falls, and two in Green Bay. The Alliance also added new high-value imaging service providers: Coulee Diagnostic Radiology in La Crosse, and in Milwaukee, MH Imaging and SimonMed.

In Illinois, we contracted lower rates with the University of Illinois Health System and added Morrison Community Hospital – a critical access hospital close to the Iowa border. 

And because the pandemic is wreaking havoc on everyone’s mental health – which is a key priority for employers – the demand for more behavioral health providers has increased substantially. I’m proud to say The Alliance recognized those needs and added more than 110 behavioral health groups – encompassing more than 850 physicians – to our Smarter NetworksSM.

Additionally, we added more than 100 provider locations from Prevea Health – host to more than 500 physicians offering 60 different types of specialty care.

Overall, The Alliance added 170 new provider groups to the 31,000+ hospitals, clinics, and doctors in our Comprehensive Network.

Advocating to Improve the Employer Health Care Market

The Alliance advocates for employer health care by influencing health policy at the state and federal levels, educating lawmakers on key issues affecting our employers, their employees, and their family members.

Throughout the year, we coordinated several meetings with state senators, members of Congress, and the governor of Wisconsin to speak with us and our Health Policy Committee (which is made up of employer-members from The Alliance).

We also worked with health policy experts, consultants, and cooperative partners to:

Our advocacy in health policy has put us in a position of influence with legislators because we represent the voice of employers on important health care issues. Consequently, Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Mike Braun (IN) asked for our thoughts on their recent anti-competitive legislation.

Lastly, several news media outlets asked us to weigh in on health policy stories throughout the year, including:

New Year. New Goals. Same Mission.

Although we’ve made progress in terms of recent price transparency laws, many hospitals are still not complying. For employer health care to work like other functional markets, employers and consumers need to know how price and quality compare so they can choose high-value providers. We will remain at the forefront of the price transparency fight, encouraging lawmakers to create stronger accountability for compliance with new laws.

Still, we’ve established a starting point, and some hospitals are posting their prices online. We used that public data to compare our rates against our competitors’ and the results show our model is working. We will remain at the forefront of the price transparency fight and continue to push legislators to aid us in our goals of fixing the employer health care market.

In addition, The Alliance is focused on other innovations to improve health care. Along with information on price, we are actively working to make health care quality more transparent, and we’re aggressively pursuing better primary care through Advanced Primary Care clinics.

Serving our employer-members and achieving our vision requires creativity, dedication, and persistence. We are blessed to have a strong team that places our members and mission first. We are always on the lookout to add top talent to achieve our aspirational goals.

If you would like to share your thoughts as an employer-member about how The Alliance can improve our work, please get in touch. If you are interested in learning more about how The Alliance moves employer health care forward, contact our Business Development team.

Cheryl DeMars

Cheryl DeMars

President & CEO, The Alliance

Cheryl DeMars joined The Alliance in 1992, assuming several roles before becoming CEO in December 2006. Cheryl works with the Board of Directors and senior leadership team to establish the strategic direction of the cooperative. 
 
Cheryl participates in a number of national and regional initiatives that align with The Alliance’s mission of controlling costs, improving quality and engaging individuals in their health. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the board of the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality. 
 
Prior to joining The Alliance, Cheryl was a program manager at Meriter Hospital in Madison. She earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Read more blog posts by Cheryl

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