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Preparing for the New Normal
Episode

Hank Osowski, a Founding Member and Managing Partner at Strategic Health Group LLC

Preparing for the New Normal

In this episode, I have the privilege of hosting Hank Osowski, a Founding Member and Managing Partner at Strategic Health Group LLC,  a health care consulting firm. Hank discusses how his company looks through ways to find new solutions to higher quality, improve member engagement, meet needs, and find new solutions to some of the challenges of health care. As strategic advisers, they help innovators implement and focus on markets where they can expand their concepts.

Hank talks of his amazing experiences in healthcare, and he has many! He shares his insights on the importance of confidence in leadership, leveraging technology to make healthcare better for patients, transformations in technology, and not giving up. He has a wealth of information to share and we’ve really enjoyed our interview with him, so please tune in!

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Preparing for the New Normal

About  Hank Osowski

Mr. Osowski is a Founding Member and Managing Partner of Strategic Health Group. He is an experienced health care executive and strategist who has provided leadership to commercial Medicare and Medicaid health plans for more than three decades. Formerly the Senior Vice President of Corporate Development for SCAN Health Plan, Hank was a key member of the senior leadership team that turned the company around from a near-death experience into an exceptionally strong financial position and one of the largest nonprofit Medicare Advantage plans in the country. He led SCAN’s expansion into seven additional California counties and as well as its first out-of-state expansion to Arizona, where Hank then served as president of SCAN Health Plan Arizona and SCAN Long-Term Care. He also led the organization’s strategic planning efforts and initiated an innovation development regimen to seek improvements in care, coordination practices, and future care outcome protocols. He’s a frequent speaker on critical issues facing Medicare and Medicaid programs.

In 2011, Hank addressed the managed Medicaid Congress about principles for structuring effective long-term care programs, as well as the Medicare Market Innovations Conference about opportunities for strengthening plans’ five-star quality rating. His reviews on some of the challenges facing the health care industry were published earlier this year in Payers and Providers.

Preparing for the New Normal with Hank Osowski, a Founding Member and Managing Partner at Strategic Health Group LLC: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Preparing for the New Normal with Hank Osowski, a Founding Member and Managing Partner at Strategic Health Group LLC: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Saul Marquez:
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Saul Marquez:
Hey everybody! Welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket podcast. Saul Marquez here again. And today I have the privilege of hosting the outstanding Hank Osowski. He is a Founding Member and Managing Partner of Strategic Health Group is an experienced health care executive and strategist who has provided leadership to Commercial Medicare and Medicaid health plans for more than three decades. Formerly the Senior Vice President of Corporate Development for SCAN Health Plan, Hank was a key member of the senior leadership team that turned the company around from a near-death experience into an exceptionally strong financial position and one of the largest nonprofit Medicare Advantage plans in the country. He led SCAN’s expansion into seven additional California counties and as well as its first out-of-state expansion to Arizona, where Hank then served as president of SCAN Health Plan Arizona and SCAN Long-Term Care. He also led the organization’s strategic planning efforts and initiated an innovation development regimen to seek improvements in care, coordination practices and future care outcome protocols. He’s a frequent speaker on critical issues facing Medicare and Medicaid programs. In 2011, Hank addressed the managed Medicaid Congress about principles for structuring effective long-term care programs, as well as the Medicare Market Innovations Conference about opportunities for strengthening plans five-star quality rating. His reviews on some of the challenges facing the health care industry were published earlier this year in Payers and Providers. So, as you can imagine, he has a wealth of knowledge in this space. Hank, so privileged to have you here with us. Thanks for joining us.

Hank Osowski:
It’s my honor. Thank you very much for having me.

Saul Marquez:
Absolutely. Now, you know, is there anything that I left out of that bio? You’ve done so much. And I know that we could probably have a five-hour-long podcast talking about that. But anything you want to add?

Hank Osowski:
I don’t think so, Saul. The opportunities that I have been fortunate to have, especially recently as we kind of shifted in the early years of our firm, you would have known all of our clients. They were national names. They were large health care provider systems moving into the health care health plans space. In the last four years probably would have heard of almost none of our clients as we are moving more rapidly into the venture capital and private equity markets as they are launching into health care. So it’s been a very interesting, dynamic kind of change.

Saul Marquez:
It is fascinating and interesting. And so from knowing all of them to not knowing all of them, the market’s big and it’s dynamic.

Hank Osowski:
It absolutely is.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, and it’s shifting the way the players are shifting from where the dollars are coming from and who’s playing. So I’m very intrigued with your perspective. So Hank, what would you say is what moves you? Why did you pick health care?

Hank Osowski:
Health care probably picked me almost by serendipity, but I really loved the work. I have grown up in business as a developer. I’ve started health plans for the last 30 years, and I just absolutely locked into the health care space at a time when it was morphing from sort of a fee-for-service model to more of a managed care model. And I had the opportunity back then to be part of the strategic leadership of a couple of plans, thinking about how health care had to change in order for us to improve quality for members to obtain some real efficiencies in the way we ran our business. So it really found me. I didn’t find it.

Saul Marquez:
Well, that’s fantastic. And you know what? It found you and you answered the call and you’ve done a lot of great things. So talk to us about the work that you’re doing at Strategic Health Group. What exactly are you guys doing and how are you offering value to the health care ecosystem?

Hank Osowski:
That’s an interesting question. We start from the framework that we are health care consumers first before we are advisors. And so we take our knowledge of the infrastructure of the ecosystem and look through ways to find new solutions to higher quality, to more member engagement, meeting their particular needs, finding new solutions to some of the challenges of health care. One of the ways I think we bring significant value to this is that we are not afraid, even though we’ve grown up in the health care system, not afraid to challenge some of the status quo. We’re not afraid to look at new tech solutions. I’ve always been, I think, regarded as somewhat of a risk-taker. I’d like to think it was as an intelligent risk-taker, not just risk for risk sake, but thinking through how we can challenge the norms and improve the system for those patients, for those members who require health care services, particularly those who are the most vulnerable. Some of our long-term care patients, those with severe chronic illnesses there’s so much more that we can do. And I think we help challenge some of those that are part of the way we’ve done this. We’ve started a dozen health plans in the last 10 years, and much of the work with those plans who were starting up has been around new people who are coming to the market with new ideas. They are challenging conventional wisdom. They are challenging what we have always thought of as the health care infrastructure and how to approach it. And I think we’re able to help them as strategic advisors to implement and focus on some markets where they can expand those concepts into the marketplace.

Saul Marquez:
That’s very interesting. You know, you guys have started many health plans. So doing this, you’re very familiar with the operations, with the labor, with the markets. What would you say makes what you do different and maybe better than what’s available today? There’s a ton of agencies out there that want to help. So what is it that you would say is the difference-maker of what you guys offer?

Speaker4:
One of the things I think that is most important is we bring only individuals to the table who have had C-suite experience. So everybody on our team has been a member of the C Suite, CEO, President, Chief Medical Officer, Chief Compliance Officer. So that’s the level of talent that we’re bringing in. I’m not trying to downgrade those organizations to some really good consulting firms around the country, but many of them bring in untested, inexperienced individuals to the table and they’re helping to learn that they’re very bright, but they haven’t had the sort of the scars, the mistakes. And we have certainly made our share over the years as executives. And our goal is to make sure that our clients don’t make those same mistakes.

Saul Marquez:
It’s a big difference-maker. If you’ve been there and done that, you likely have the scars to show for it and are able to help. If somebody with an MBA somewhere that hasn’t been in that seat, they likely can’t tell you those little intricacies, those distinctions that your team probably has, right?.

Hank Osowski:
You have to make tough decisions as a member of that C suite, whether it’s a clinical decision or a business decision strategy. And unless you’ve been there and done that, it’s tough to always assume that what you learn in a textbook is going to work in the real world. Again, I’m not trying to downgrade or disrespect what those individuals bring to the table, but for an organization who wants tested leadership, I think that’s the key difference for us.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, and it makes a difference if you’re going to do something, learn from the best, learn from the people that have been there, done that. So I’m really curious, Hank. You know, you had this at the very beginning, SCAN Health Plan, a near-death experience, and you guys turned it around. I mean, give me the high level on that, because, like, I’m just really curious about what you believe was the problem and then how you put it together to make it skyrocket.

Hank Osowski:
So the situation at the time that a new leadership team came in and David Schmidt, who was the new CEO who came in the organization, was under voluntary supervision with the state regulatory authorities. I think they had taken their eye off the ball in terms of managing the risk that they were taking. That said, they’ve brought in a completely mostly new leadership team. There are a few folks who held over, but the formulation of the new team was to focus on reviving the financial stability of the organization and taking a number of tough actions to strengthen that foundation but also to reinvigorate the organization around its mission. And I was honored to be part of that team. So we went from roughly 50,000 Medicare Advantage Members to over the course of five or six years, we went from four counties in Southern California to 14 counties in total from the fifty thousand members to about one hundred and thirty-some numbers and more importantly, establish an extremely strong foundation or a financial foundation for the organization, we were able to literally get to investment grade in terms of our finances over the course of that time. There was a lot of hard work. I was proud to be a member of the team that did it. It was a team of about 15 on the leadership group who all played a significant role in making it happen. We revised operations. We cut down on the number of provider contracts and those groups that were not performing, not serving the members well.

Hank Osowski:
We terminated the contracts and moved to a core group of providers who were providing extraordinary service to members. So it took all of those features to strengthen the organization, get its footing. It now is among the… Still is among the leading Medicare Advantage regional Medicare Advantage plans in the country. It was at one point among the largest not-for-profit plans of the country. So very proud of what our team accomplished. Absolutely.

Saul Marquez:
And when you were in that position, I mean, did you ever feel like you weren’t going to make it?

Hank Osowski:
No. We knew it would be tough. It would be a long road. It wasn’t going to happen overnight. But I had such confidence in my colleagues and Dave’s leadership that as we progress and took some of these hard steps, each positive step gave us more confidence that we were going to pull out of this.

Saul Marquez:
I love it. Yeah, it’s that belief in your leadership. It’s that belief and the strategy. You had it together. And thank you for answering that, because I was just curious. I’m a big fan of turnarounds. I love to learn. There’s so many gems in that. And you really just shared a lot of really great insights with us. So thanks. So thanks for indulging me on that one.

Hank Osowski:
Not at all. I love talking about what the team accomplished during that term.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, for sure. And so congratulations on that. And you have a model that works and now you’re helping others do it. So talk to us about right now what you guys are doing that makes business better for the folks you’re working with.

Hank Osowski:
What I think makes business better is that and this is really an exciting time to be part of the health care ecosystem as new players are coming in with ideas, particularly around technology and how to leverage the power of technology to make health care better for all of those patients, the individuals who call on us every day to make sure that they get the care they need when they need it. That, to me, is really exciting. And we’ve been fortunate to work with a number of people who have a concept and we get to help them take that concept to market. They want to improve the way care is delivered. They want to improve the way they interact and guide individuals. The system, which isn’t really a health care system, it’s a lot of some very good parts that have been interconnected. But it’s not really a system and it’s difficult to navigate. So a number of plans have come up with new ways to engage with their enrollees to help navigate through this complex maze. We love seeing that and helping them do that. We also have been able to, I think, bring some realism to where there are new opportunities. And again, as I said, we challenge them, challenge some of the conventional wisdom. People say we Shouldn’t go into rural areas. Well, now where you leveraging technology and telehealth, For example, you can start to think about providing opportunities to care for individuals in those rural markets. The CMS has really centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services who manage both Medicaid and Medicare programs, has really given plans, some opportunities to be flexible, to care for individuals with chronic illnesses in a way that talks to the influencers of their health conditions as much as the actual health conditions.

Hank Osowski:
So what are the things in the environment? I think we’ve heard a lot of talk about the social determinants of health over the last couple of years. Well, what are the influencers that if you can move the needle on some of those things, provide people with regular nutrition? If you can provide them with transportation to doctor’s appointments or to get medication, and CMS has been able to provide plans, the opportunity to be innovative and creative in terms of reaching out to those with multiple chronic illnesses. And often those are the individuals who are most at risk and highest use of services in the health care space.

Saul Marquez:
That flexibility. And they’ve been really innovative in how they’ve enabled plans to do these things. I mean, it’s impressive, right? I mean, they’ve been very forward-thinking.

Hank Osowski:
It’s one of the little-known allowing plans that flexibility, not only in terms of pushing innovation but giving the regulatory authority to allow plants to be creative and innovative. And it’s been great.

Saul Marquez:
That’s great. You know, some people say that the next 10 years are going to bring about more change and more transformation than the last hundred. How do you feel about that? Do you think that’s true?

Hank Osowski:
I’m probably older than most, and so I still remember some of the first computers and fooling around with my kids Apple2c and kind of watching just the advantage of cell phones. I can remember that the first laptop I bought had less power, significantly less power than my iPhone does. So I’m watching the transition over the last few years. I do think that we will continue to progress. I think that we will continue to see advances. Unfortunately, I think the underlying structure of the health care system is going to be hard to change. And honestly, until you get into a situation much like this pandemic has forced us to rethink a number of health care solutions until we are forced to change some of that. I think there will be lots of resistance, but technology is going to continue to push us. And I’m actually very optimistic about where we can go with that.

Saul Marquez:
That’s great. Yeah, no, I am too. And I think, you know, you bring up a good point. There’s always going to be that resistance. COVID has helped with some of that. But nevertheless, technology will continue to push. And as you think about the biggest setbacks you’ve dealt with so much, you’ve gone through so many things, great things. But when you’re building great things, setbacks happen. Which one of those setbacks would you say has been one of the biggest and how has it defined you? How has it made you better?

Hank Osowski:
That’s really an interesting question. Several years ago, I was asked to come in and help turn around an insurance software organization. The organization had a, I think, a good product, but there was a lot of dysfunction internally and they didn’t understand even basic concepts of marketing. As we brought some discipline to the organization and I think built a substantial foundation for growth at that time, we were just about ready to push into the marketplace heavily when the parent organization was by a European company and they had zero interest in the software business, they didn’t want any part of technology. And so, again, we’re at the starting gate ready to launch this, I think a powerful foundation of insurance software. They said shut it down.

Saul Marquez:
Wow.

Hank Osowski:
The painful part was that we had a team of people who believed in the vision that I had to face just before the holidays and say, sorry, folks, we’re closing down.

Saul Marquez:
Oh, my gosh.

Hank Osowski:
And I promised myself at that point that I would never bury a company again. So whatever it takes to make it successful, I wish we had had the thought process back then to ask for time to go find a buyer, because I think we could have sold. But I believe that made me stronger in terms of some of our turnaround efforts that I’ve been involved in over the last few years, that we’re going to make them successful. Whatever it takes, we will. We’ll work with the blood, sweat, and tears of the team will put us on the right path. And so I think that drove me to never give up again.

Saul Marquez:
I love It. What a great story, Hank. And wow, I can’t even imagine. So how long did you guys work on this for before you had to shut it down? Right before the holidays.

Hank Osowski:
We probably worked about 18 months to turn this organization around. And fortunately, we left some of the disgruntled players go, but kept a core group of people who were committed to making it work. And I think that was really the most painful thing for me.

Saul Marquez:
Wow. Yeah. I mean, you took me there with you, Hank. I was there. And I like your story. I was just like, oh, man. Oh, no, they kind of bury this thing. And I can sense your commitment to never doing that again. You know, it’s awesome. I can see and hear and feel it from just your words. So great. Great story as you continue to do the exciting work that you’re doing with the different models and health care. What are you most excited about today, Hank?

Hank Osowski:
I’m excited by the growth opportunities that are available in the marketplace today. I look at Medicare Advantage, for example, and I see that there are markets in the U.S. that are relatively untouched, and yet everybody is pushing for more value-based payments. Medicare is pushing for that. Medicaid programs are. And provider organizations are willing to start accepting that kind of a payment mechanism that opens up so many programs and so many markets that were untouchable even just a couple of years ago. I’m also excited by the fact that some of the newer entrants are leveraging technology to bring new solutions for the beneficiaries. And I think that’s That’s a very exciting new care. Management protocols are being implemented. Some are calling them navigators, but there are people who are reaching out to the individual beneficiaries, the individual enrollees, to try and figure out what do they need and how can the health plan be the conduit to get that care to those individuals. We’re moving away from acute care, reactionary kind of programs to much more proactive whole-person health. And I think that’s a significant and dynamic shift in just the thought process of what can you do to keep people healthy and engage with them early, providing them with key resources that they need so that their health, while we may not be able to change those chronic conditions, we can at least mitigate somewhat the risk that those individuals face. So those are the things I’m really excited about.

Saul Marquez:
There is a lot to be excited about, Hank, and there’s so much to do. And I mean, I’m excited about it, too. And it’s just fascinating to see it from your perspective as well, from the plan perspective and how that innovation and these different levers that you mentioned is going to change that acute care focus to every single day whole-person health. And that’s exciting. Super exciting. This has been fun. I want to do another one with you, Hank, but for now, this has been awesome. What would you say is a closing thought that you give to the listeners today? Many plans listening as well. So we have a solid audience that you’re speaking directly to. What would you give them as a closing thought? And me, of course. And then what’s the best place that folks can reach out to you to get some more information and engage them again?

Hank Osowski:
Saul, thank you very much. I really enjoyed this conversation. So the closing thought that I would share is I would encourage plans to think strategically, but also to put aside conventional wisdom and look at how they can be more innovative and creative in delivering care to the individuals that have enrolled in their plans. We have an opportunity to change the trajectory of care to help individuals manage their own health. And I think that by being creative and innovative plans have that opportunity to really be part of the change that’s occurring rather than being a barrier to that change. In terms of getting back to us folks can go to our website, thestrategichealthgroup.com, or they can call our central office. They can reach me at our office, which is 818-279-2196. Email me at hwosowski@Strategichealthgroup. And I look forward to if they have questions about anything we’ve discussed today, answering those questions. Again, we’re just very excited to be part of this landscape today.

Saul Marquez:
Hank, this has been awesome, fabulous examples, and a very insightful discussion. I can’t thank you enough. And certainly, listeners make sure that if something Hank said resonated With you and really kind of spoke to maybe an opportunity within your plan, make sure to reach out to Hank. He’s just a wealth of knowledge, and I’m sure you’ll be able to benefit from that. So, Hank, thank you. And certainly looking forward to part two.

Hank Osowski:
That’s great, Saul. Thank you.

Hank Osowski:
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Things You’ll Learn

  • The healthcare market is big and dynamic.
  • Be an intelligent risk-taker.
  • There is much good in consulting with people who have already made mistakes because they ensure that their clients don’t make the same mistakes.
  • If you’re going to do something, learn from the best.
  • Plans should think strategically. Put aside conventional wisdom and look at how they can be more innovative and creative in delivering care to the individuals that have enrolled in their plans.

 

Resources

Website: https://strategichealthgroup.com/

Phone Number: 818-279-2196

Email: hwosowski@strategichealthgroup