Cover: Breaking barriers to create “The New CMS”

Sunday, November 01, 2015 11:00 AM
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by CMS President Michael Volz, MD


  • Michael Volz, MD, a board-certified allergy/immunology specialist, was installed as president of the Colorado Medical Society at the 145th Annual Meeting in Breckenridge on Sept. 19.
  • In his inaugural speech, he identified two topics that will likely consume his presidential year: public policy and governance reform.
  • CMS member physicians identified payer issues as a high priority. CMS is currently in talks with health plans about how they build, manage and trim down their physician networks. Additionally, CMS is monitoring the potential mergers of two major health plans doing business in Colorado.

As your newly inducted Colorado Medical Society president, I am honored to take the baton and run a leg of the race in these very challenging times in medicine. Looking down the road at what we are up against in the next 12 months, I can’t help but think that I wasn’t handed a relay baton but rather a live grenade with the pin removed. Indeed, we are in some tumultuous times.

At the CMS Spring conference in May, I discussed three topics: (1) The theme for the next year, “Breaking Down Barriers,” which resonates very closely with the theme for the CMS Annual Meeting, “The New CMS.” (2) My passion and commitment, which is not only why I entered medicine but also how I came to be involved in CMS and policy issues. (3) How and why we must continue to work in order to make a difference.

You might also remember a Mark Twain quote from that presentation: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Many of us are here because what we do in medicine is the “why.” Our passion and commitment to medicine instills in us the interest and desire to help our patients and colleagues, without which – especially if we are not organized – all of us will suffer. When I ran for this office I had a few specific issues I wished to address during the next year. However, it is now clear that the next year will mostly be consumed by two topics: public policy and governance reform. And that’s okay because addressing policy and governing are the meat and potatoes of the good work medical societies do.

At September’s Annual Meeting, the House of Delegates made monumental changes to our governance that will enable CMS to reach out and engage more of our colleagues in meaningful ways to generate positive consequences at the exam-room level. In that context, can there be anything more relevant, basic and important than how health plans build, manage and trim down their physician networks?

We are currently in conversations with the plans on those very questions, and this conversation may lead to a policy framework that guides the plans to make legitimate business decisions, while assuring those decisions are made transparently and affording physicians our rights while we fulfill our clinical responsibilities to our patients.

Fortunately we enjoy strong working relationships with the medical leadership of Colorado’s health plans and we may find those relationships can transcend differences and lead to workable and sustainable policies as they have so many times before. I remain optimistic but not naive.

Network adequacy, whether we are in or out, has the potential to consume considerable staff and advocacy resources alone, but we also now have before us the pressing challenge of setting reasonable standards of accountability for the impending consolidation of two major health plans doing considerable business in Colorado. Many of you might recall that when United Healthcare acquired PacifiCare several years ago, United approached us at CMS and agreed to a Division of Insurance-supervised set of undertakings and a working collaboration with a physician advisory body.

You may recall that the issue of Colorado Medicine addressing that merger had a picture of a 1,000-pound gorilla on the cover and a rhetorical question on that consolidation. But we worked with United and the result was several precedent-setting public policies.

So, the question before us at this time is, “Will this next acquisition/merger morph into a doctor-consuming alien or a collaborative gentle giant?” With good policy and governance we increase the possibility of the latter being true.

Considering the comments I’ve made, one might think we are surrounded, outnumbered and certainly outspent. But in my mind, we’ve got them right where we want them. As the optimists in this crowd know, our CEO, Alfred Gilchrist, likes to say that every pile of manure has a pony in it. I suggest that we need to find, nurture and tame that pony.

The X factor in Colorado – the big pony or the horse – is our pool of health policy and business leaders who have the maturity, vision and a long history of commitment to fixing problems rather than assigning blame. A most recent manifestation of this commitment is how we have moved the needle on coverage over the last three years, reducing the margin of uninsured by more than 50 percent.

We have achieved policy advancements in system delivery that are to this day still unapproachable and not possible in many states, and we are fully engaged even now on multiple fronts pursuing a statewide agenda to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. These accomplishments are turtles on fence posts; they didn’t get there by themselves. They came from our homegrown leaders and their constituencies and their hard work, not national vendors or hired guns.

It is an honor to be holding the grenade for CMS, which I will throw in the general direction of our adversaries, whomever they might eventually be, if the circumstances require, or try to put the pin back in it, should diplomacy prevail. As an aside, I want to share Will Rogers’ definition of diplomacy: “The art of saying ‘nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”

I look forward to working with you on many matters of mutual importance that extend well beyond what I have briefly outlined as emergent priorities. Thank you for this opportunity to help advance our community, our profession and our state’s health.

Michael Volz, MD oath of office

Michael Volz, MD, right, takes the presidential oath of office from outgoing president Tamaan Osbourne-Roberts, MD, left.

Meet your new president
Dr. Volz is board certified in Allergy/Immunology and a native of Wisconsin. He is currently a solo-practice physician with two offices in Denver in addition to providing coverage in rural Eastern Kansas twice per month.

He was awarded a medical degree by Medical College of Wisconsin, completed an internal medicine residency at the University of Miami, and completed his sub-specialty training in allergy/immunology at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Disorders in Denver.

As a medical student and later as an intern and resident, Dr. Volz represented his peers at the American Association of Medical Colleges. He has served as the president of the Colorado Allergy and Asthma Society and the Clear Creek Valley Medical Society (CCVMS), the medical director for the American Association of Colorado asthma camp, and as a board member of the CCVMS Board of Trustees, the CMS Board of Directors and the Lung Association of Colorado Board of Directors.

Posted in: Colorado Medicine | Cover Story | Initiatives | Advocacy | Governance Reform


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