Without acquisition by Kaiser Permanente, Group Health would be hard-pressed to improve and expand care.

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CHANGE is hard. History has shown this. But as conditions change, so must our nation, our cities, as well as how we access our care.

As the former mayor of Seattle during the original tech boom, I experienced some of the greatest challenges of our times and it influenced the decisions I made and the policies I supported.

The health-care sector is in the midst of unprecedented change. For Group Health to continue to serve our community with the same quality care and values, it needs access to greater resources and it needs to change. I support Kaiser Permanente’s acquisition of Group Health. I encourage every voting member of Group Health and every community member to do the same.

The Group Health model worked for 70 years. Through those decades, staff, physicians, nurses, Group Health members and board members worked hard to make sure the organization evolved. It incorporated technology, expanded in communities across the state, and it now has more than 30 locations where people have access to nationally recognized care. Group Health also provides grants to the community to help provide care for those in need. Our community should be proud of this progressive work.

Norman B.
Norman B. Rice was mayor of Seattle, 1989-1997, and recently was CEO of the Seattle Foundation.
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But things are different today. Things will be dramatically different in the very near future, and Group Health and its members must do what is necessary to make sure that the founding values of quality, service and affordability remain embedded in the care and coverage options available to us and to future generations.

Group Health is at a crossroads. It is facing huge issues that must be addressed, from combating rising drug costs to upgrading information-technology systems to investing in clinical facilities and equipment. Without this acquisition by Kaiser Permanente, Group Health would be hard pressed to allocate sufficient resources to maintain its current level of care, let alone improve upon and expand that care to new communities. And the issues it is facing would continue to get bigger and the cost to fix them more expensive.

While facing this reality, Group Health looked at its options, one of which revealed a path forward with a like-minded, nonprofit partner. Kaiser Permanente has a similar history in its commitment to delivering high-quality care locally in order to best meet the needs of the community — the same values that helped create Group Health. This acquisition would allow Group Health to coordinate and shore up resources to continue delivering the best care by the same great teams that its members and our community deserve.

This proposal is a change for our region. Group Health is part of who we are in the Northwest. It is deeply embedded in our community and has served generations of members and patients. It’s also part of the innovative DNA we have here in the Northwest. This organization helped people around the country rethink and redefine how health care and coverage could and should be delivered.

For me, this change hits close to home. Group Health physicians and staff have helped take care of my friends and family for years. But I also know that this change needs to happen.

At its core, I know this was not an easy recommendation for the members of Group Health who serve on its board to make to their fellow members. But their desire to ensure that high-quality coverage and care continues to be affordable and accessible drove them to this recommendation. As a community, we should support the decision for Group Health to become part of Kaiser Permanente.

I truly believe that this is the best path forward for our community to have access to the very best heath-care possible, from the very best care teams possible. I strongly urge our community to support this change.