HEALTH CARE FOUNDATIONS: Just How Much Can They Accomplish?
"We have a responsibility to make informed choices about which investments are most likely to yield lasting benefits and not just provide band-aid solutions," said Dr. Mark Smith, president and CEO of the California HealthCare Foundation. CHCF announced today that it has authorized more than $35 million in grants and programs over the course of its first year. Formed last May as a result of the conversion of nonprofit Blue Cross of California into the for-profit WellPoint Health Networks, the foundation's mission is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of Californians. To accomplish these goals, the foundation is building partnerships with providers, consumers, businesses and the government and focusing its giving in the following five areas: managed care and special populations, California's uninsured, state health policy, public information on quality of care and public health (CHCF release, 3/30).
A California Colleague
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, California Wellness Foundation President Gary Yates discusses the role health care foundations can play in caring for the state's poor. While Yates "insists that foundations cannot -- and should not -- take the place of sustained government commitment," he says "they can play a role." Yates notes that foundations must do more than provide direct services. If that is all they do, he says, then "they are not going to have the resources to provide the services at the level required." According to Yates, foundations "can certainly put some of their grant-making money into programs and institutions that help educate policy-makers and opinion leaders in some of the thinking about how best to write policies and programs that will help enhance the health of the people of the state." But he warns that people cannot rely on the newly created conversion foundations to take the place of government responsibility. "In a time of tightening budgets, some people, especially at the government level, feel these foundations will be able to pick up the slack, and that's why the safety net won't get shredded. That's just nonsensical." He adds, "Foundations and government can work in partnership, but we can't begin to do what federal and state government can do" (Mills, 3/29).