Jim Rhodes on How Joining GPBCH Has Led to Advancements in Equitable Health Care for Camden County

Jim H. Rhodes, deputy county administrator, Camden County, New Jersey, spoke on how his organization’s membership with the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health (GPBCH) has aided their value-based initiatives in improving health equity in the region.

Camden County’s membership with the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health (GPBCH) has provided guidance and solutions on how to advance equitable health care for thousands of the New Jersey county's employees and retirees, said Jim H. Rhodes, deputy county administrator.

GPBCH will be hosting a 10 year anniversary event on November 10, 2022.


Why did your organization join the GPBCH?

The County of Camden actually became aware of GPBCH through our insurance broker, Connor Strong & Buckelew. We were in a self-funded arrangement and they thought that we had much to gain from becoming part of an organization that included employers that had similar challenges and issues concerning employee health benefits. And so, we decided to join, it was a great idea.

How do you and your team engage with the Coalition and how have they provided value to your organization?

Our team here at the county is kind of lean and mean, but we provide health benefits for thousands of employees and retirees. And there's always the challenge of making sure that we are doing the right thing by our employees, but also through our taxpayers, making sure that our benefits are not only of high quality, but also affordable.

The Coalition provides all sorts of opportunities through various seminars and meetings regarding the various topics, whether it's wellness, whether it's benefit design, value-based, or pharmacy, to let us get information we might not normally have available to us, and we hear it from professionals from across the spectrum, both locally and nationally.

So, it's been very valuable for us not only to participate in those events, but also to pick up the phone to call Neil [Goldfarb, the CEO of GPBCH] or Jill [Hutt, GPBCH's vice president of member services] at the Coalition to get more information and more details. They're always accessible and always very helpful.

The coalition does lead many initiatives, many of which are done through employer groups, where you get to speak to other benefits managers or health care professionals about issues such as weight management, smoking cessation, biologic medicines, which are driving health care costs through the roof, to find ways that perhaps, we can have a better understanding as to how these things can help and how we can address how we can perhaps control the costs that come associated with some of them. We are constantly looking for answers from the Coalition to provide us guidance and in many ways, solutions.

Why should other employers in the region join the Coalition? What compelling reason would you share with them about the value of GPBCH membership?

At first, I wasn't sure what benefit it would bring, other than the fact that previously I had worked in Philadelphia. I worked for Independence Blue Cross. I was aware of the Coalition, but here I was over in New Jersey running the health care benefits for a county government. So, I wasn't exactly sure what I would find, but I quickly found a whole group of managers, of HR [human resources] specialists, of insurance benefits managers, who were facing many of the same challenges that our organization was facing at the time.

I quickly found that being involved in this group, in this organization, I was able to learn from those who have experienced these issues that perhaps we were experiencing, and they already had a solution to it. We found out about new ways to deal with diabetes management or mental health resources that can be available. We came across our wellness coach solution through the Coalition. So, we were able to collaborate with people in organizations we would have never been able to in the past.

And I'll just say, for a government employer, GPBCH also includes the city of Philadelphia. And I've become pretty close with that organization’s leader with regard to health benefits, and we pick up the phone and talk to each other all the time, especially around open enrollment to discuss some of the things the city is doing over in Philadelphia and some of the things the county is doing over here in Camden. And it's been very helpful to each of us sharing who your vendor is for an EAP [employee assistance program] or what organization you use for an FSA [flexible spending account]? So, it’s been extremely valuable to us.

As health care evolves, what future role do you see coalitions having in advancing equitable health of employees and beneficiaries?

I see an organization like GPBCH as extremely important, when it comes to the issues of advancing equitable health care. This organization, it’s leaders, and its members, I serve on the executive board, has been very quick to respond to and address issues of equity and the distribution of health care services and the availability of health care services, to not only our communities or our organizations, but also to the overall community, the Greater Philadelphia region.

Because we know as employers that our strengths lie in the communities that we serve and if our community is suffering, it's not good for our organizations, and we have an obligation. And so, GPBCH has helped us amplify our voices and to become part of something that is helping the greater whole of our region. So, it's been very helpful.

The organization is run by some dedicated professionals who are experts in their fields. Neil Goldfarb, Jill Hutt, and Eric Croft provide resources and information that is simply not available to everyone, and being part of this coalition puts you next to that, it makes you partners with them.

They are such a great resource to the business community, and I am very happy to be a part of this group, because it makes what we do easier and better. I encourage anyone who has an opportunity to meet with them or to join the organization, that they should do that. So, thanks!

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