At Kaiser Permanente, everyone—myself included—are advocates for total health. By that, we mean, everyone should have the opportunity to thrive in mind, body and spirit.

To do that effectively, our quality care must be affordable.

Obviously, price is a primary driver for consumers and businesses when it comes to making decisions about where to go for health care. So, it’s an important focus for any provider to be competitive. But, something is fundamentally broken in the health care system when the cost for a typical American family of four is over $28,000 a year for an average employer-offered PPO.

We have to—and we can do better.

At Kaiser Permanente, affordability is a key part of our mission. It’s not just something we strive for—it’s ingrained in who we are. We’re not content with the status quo.

For years, our integrated care model and focus on prevention have allowed us to intervene early and see small conditions before they become bigger. This same model led to care coordination teams that reduce duplication and the subsequent increased costs. Yet, that still isn’t enough.

With more than 73,000 employees and almost 7,500 physicians at 15 hospitals spread across Southern California who serve our more than 4.5 million Health Plan members, our people are our greatest asset to find innovative ways to increase affordability.

Whether it’s reducing food waste, implementing a new safety procedure, or advocating for increased renewable energy—many of the ideas that drive our affordability come from our people.

Now, it’s important to see this as a moral imperative. We care about affordability because we care about spreading total health among our members and our future members. We care because we care about people, including those who can’t afford to see a doctor.

That’s one of the reasons we’re doubling down on our commitment to our communities. As an organization, we’re focusing on an area that in public health is known as upstream predictors of health. There are things that can make us sick – whether environmental, behavioral, or socio-economic – that have nothing to do with seeing a doctor.

The figures are staggering. Research indicates that direct medical care only contributes to about 20 percent of positive health outcomes, and more than 60 percent of outcomes are rooted in “social determinants of health.” That means education level, access to healthy food, housing security, and good-paying jobs among others play a disproportionate role.

We’re rethinking the way we do business to spread total health. It’s a 360-degree approach that leverages our people, effectively uses our purchasing power as a large organization, and focuses on strategic partnerships. We’re using all of our assets—including our passion—to make an even bigger impact.

Achieving total health takes focus and commitment. At Kaiser Permanente, we set big aspirational goals, and we’re walking the walk because our mission demands it — and because total health is our business.

George Di Salvo is Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Kaiser Permanente Southern California Health Plan and Hospitals.

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