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At Aspen Ideas: Health, Mark E. Miller Explains AV’s Focus on Health Care Affordability

Financial independence and bipartisan attitudes make philanthropies a critical player in health care debates.

Image of panel speakers on stage conversing.
Elliot Gerson, Cara James, Joseph Betancourt, Sandra Hernandez, and Mark E. Miller during a panel discussion at Aspen Ideas: Health – one of the foremost gatherings of experts, innovators and policymakers. (Daniel Bayer)

How do philanthropies currently influence health policy? And what should they be doing differently?

These are among the big picture questions that Mark Miller, AV’s Executive Vice President of Health Care, discussed during a panel about philanthropy and health care at Aspen Ideas: Health.

Throughout the conversation, Miller contrasted AV’s focus on affordability with other philanthropic efforts that aim at healthcare coverage, healthcare quality, or supporting research into specific diseases.

He was joined on the panel by Cara James, president and CEO of Grantmakers in Health; Joseph Betancourt, president of The Commonwealth Fund; and Sandra Hernandez, president and CEO of the California Health Care Foundation. Elliot Gerson, executive vice president of the Aspen Institute, served as moderator.

Our focus is to look at market failures or to look at ways that government programs are kind of misspending dollars,” Miller said. He went on to illustrate some of the common ways this occurs, including managed care organizations taking advantage of payment systems” and hospital systems taking advantage of consolidated market positions to raise their prices.”

Our focus is to look at market failures or to look at ways that government programs are kind of misspending dollars.
Mark E. Miller executive vice president of health care at Arnold Ventures

Miller explained that AV views the problem of unaffordable health care as something that affects businesses, households and taxpayers, and that AV wants to represent that perspective in the larger policy debate.

Gerson also asked Miller to discuss why philanthropy plays such an outsized role in health care policy.

One of the most important reasons is that you can enter a discussion, a debate, however you want to talk about it, and come at it with no financial conflict,” Miller said.

While Arnold Ventures and other philanthropies may have specific policy positions, Miller explained, they don’t have a financial interest in those positions. Instead, they can focus on what drives the right outcomes.

Philanthropies also have the ability to work across a formidable partisan divide. 

Mark E. Miller, executive vice president of health care at Arnold Ventures. (Daniel Bayer)

You can try to bring people together, walk that line,” he said. It’s harder or easier depending on whether you’re talking about federal or state and what the issue is.” 

Miller further highlighted how philanthropies like Arnold Ventures have the ability to speak for people who don’t have a voice in debates against well-financed groups that do have a financial stake in certain policy outcomes.

The kind of things that I can point to that we were involved in, like The No Surprises Act with surprise billing, the recent Medicare drug legislation, there are very formidable groups with a lot of resources and standing that oppose all those changes and are currently in the courts trying to undo them,” Miller said.

While opponents to reforms may have more financial resources, Miller pointed out, those sorts of policy fights allow philanthropies to get greater value from their efforts because they have public support across the political spectrum.

Miller also highlighted AV’s work on integrating Medicare and Medicaid for dual-eligible populations and site-neutral payments.

Watch the entire panel here: Aspen Ideas: Health

Learn more about AV’s work in Health Care.