“Top of the Day”
For more than 25 years, Jim Hertel was the “go-to guy” whenever an industry professional wanted historical background or a media source needed a quote from a healthcare expert. His photographic memory forgot little; whether it was a face, a fact or a rumor that bore further investigation. He had a network of contacts in the healthcare industry that would be difficult to duplicate and served as an invaluable resource to him in writing the newsletters. He knew most every decision maker in Arizona and Colorado and they knew him.
Jim, also, had the uncanny ability to ask a probing, sensitive question without making the person who was asked feel threatened or defensive. He mastered the ability to take diverse ideas, analyze them, and then expand upon them to reveal their implications in a greater context. He coined it: “connecting the dots”.
Jim passed away suddenly on July 1, 2010. The Hertel Report carries on in his absence with the help of many. We are sure all who knew him would agree…Jim would be in his element right now. With the chaos surrounding the current state of healthcare financing, you would have heard about it.
We miss you Jim.
“When information from previously unrelated sources is structured in a meaningful way, human beings are capable of thinking thoughts that were previously unthinkable”
Meet Publisher Jim Hammond
Connecting Arizona’s Healthcare Community
Public health gets Jim Hammond excited. Ask him about Obamacare, capitation, or the history of public health and he will likely launch into an informative and impassioned speech, reaching for paper or a dry erase marker to write out names and draw diagrams.
Healthcare is one of the great challenges of our time.
He sees the whole of humanity’s public health journey as one that starts with a pre-historical decision “to not poop near the food” and progresses to a point in the future where everyone enjoys quality, affordable care and protection from catastrophic events. He has no delusions that getting there will be easy, but it’s a goal he sees as a duty.
This is hard work. But if we don’t do it, we’re being irresponsible. I would like to be thought of as someone that challenges our healthcare industry to evolve, to be that industry that supports our society.
Today, Hammond energizes, informs, and connects the Arizona healthcare industry as a consultant, publisher, writer, and public speaker. For the past five years, he’s informed and influenced Arizona healthcare leaders as the owner and publisher of The Hertel Report – a continuation of the enterprising and forward-thinking work of a dedicated industry professional who died too soon. This is a vocation for which Hammond’s winding path through life uniquely qualifies him.
Hammond, the son of a construction engineer who “went wherever the jobs were,” lived in 10 different cities by the time he started high school in Indiana. There, he developed passions that would guide him for life. An exceptional teacher sparked a lifelong fascination with the human body; and through his active involvement in the Key Club was introduced to rugby. “It’s a great sport for camaraderie. It’s the ultimate team sport,” he said. He played competitively into adulthood until he was sidelined with a serious neck injury in 1992.
He enrolled at Indiana University (IU) and after trying both pre-med and business, a counselor suggested the University’s highly regarded Public Health program. The IU school of Public and environmental affairs was an early proponent of working in small groups and teaching a persuasive writing style. It was the perfect fusion of his love of science, working with people, and attention to detail; in it, he “blossomed.”
Today, Hammond thinks he’s lucky to have been present at the birth of Arizona’s Medicaid Agency, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) nearly 40 years ago. In fact, Medicaid was born just a few years after him, when Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Amendments of 1965. However, it wasn’t until Hammond was at IU in 1982 that Arizona became the last state to establish its Medicaid program.
If Arizona was going to finally, begrudgingly implement the federal program, it was going to do it differently. And when Hammond graduated from IU and moved to Arizona to accept a position at Mercy Care, one of the nation’s first Medicaid managed care plans, he was part of developing a brand new system much of the rest of the country would eventually come to replicate.
We felt like we were inventing something new. I loved it.
For the next decade, he “bounced around a lot” dipping his toes in nearly every component of the AHCCCS machine. He worked for providers, including hospitals, physician groups and ancillary vendors. He also had a stint with an eligibility company, helping hospitals enroll patients in Medicaid. Hammond also helped start another AHCCCS managed care plan, Health Choice Arizona; and even worked inside the AHCCCS agency as a plan manager in 1989 and 90. His rugby-player toughness, work ethic, and collaborative nature propelled him.
In 1998, as an employee at Mayo Clinic, Jim Hammond met Jim Hertel. At that time Hertel was known for accumulating and selling an annual hard copy collection of key industry data.
By 2006, the internet was ubiquitous and that massive bound notebook gave way to the Arizona Managed Care Newsletter. As a well-connected industry journeyman, Hammond became an important and well-liked source for industry insider information. “We were friends,” Hammond said. He got to know the Hertel family as he became involved with their well-attended State of the State meetings, at which Jim Hertel would connect professionals and address their leaders. Hammond said Hertel was “famous” for “putting CEOs on the spot.”
Jim Hertel lifted up the whole industry. He helped to break down silos. He challenged organizations by asking them questions.
Less than a month after he gave an important State of the State meeting following the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, Jim Hertel died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 60. In the wake of his death, his wife, Alexis turned to Hammond, her husband’s gregarious and trusted source, to continue his legacy. “That was humbling. It was a tough moment,” Hammond said.
Over time, he revamped the operation, gradually developing The Hertel Report of today. He hired writer and journalist Paula Blankenship, and together, they dedicated themselves to publishing comprehensive “data editions” every quarter, a news listings every week, and a monthly newsletter, featuring original reporting on Arizona and national healthcare issues impacting our local managed care market.
The Hertel Report has evolved into much more than it was and it’s become an institution. We do this, not because it makes us money, but we do it because of the legacy, because of the Arizona managed care newsletter, now The Hertel Report has become part of the fabric of our industry. People have come to count on us, and we don’t want to let them down.
Under his leadership, the Hertel Report name has been solidified among Arizona healthcare professionals as one synonymous with reliable, critical information and friendly, cooperative community. It unites a group of people continuing a legacy of innovation and commitment to the advancement of Arizona health.
Because we’re all in this industry together, we’re all trying to improve. Let’s learn from each other.
By Anthony Wallace