The Health Management Academy

Episode 1

Driving Innovation in Employer-Sponsored Healthcare

Episode Description

In this episode, Dan Mendelson, the CEO of Morgan Health, joins Renee at The Table. They discuss many aspects of improving employer-sponsored health care, including new investments and partnerships with Kaiser Permanente and Vera Whole Health, and leveraging advanced population health metrics and new accountable care models. Dan also reflects on the leadership values he has carried from job to job, giving several practical pieces of advice.

About Our Guest

Dan Mendelson, CEO, Morgan Health

Dan Mendelson is the Chief Executive Officer of Morgan Health at JPMorgan Chase & Co. Mendelson oversees a business unit at JPMorgan Chase focused on accelerating the delivery of new care models that improve the quality, equity and affordability of employer-sponsored health care. Mendelson was previously Founder and CEO of Avalere Health, a health care advisory company based in Washington, D.C. He also served as Operating Partner at Welsh Carson, a private equity firm. Before founding Avalere, Mendelson served as associate director for Health at the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton White House.


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Renee DeSilva 0:06

Welcome back to The Academy Table. I’m Renee DeSilva, CEO of The Academy and your host and I am incredibly excited to kick off our second season of The Table throughout the year will bring you a fresh slate of conversations with the industry’s most innovative leaders and great thinkers, and this starts today with this episode featuring my good friend and colleague Dan Mendelson.

Last year, Dan joined JPMorgan Chase, where he now leads the firm’s healthcare innovation team called Morgan Health. The venture’s mission is to accelerate improvements to the employer-sponsored health care market. I especially enjoyed this conversation with Dan because employer-sponsored health care is often overlooked when we consider how to improve our nation’s healthcare system. And that’s despite it being the source of insurance for more than 150 million Americans, and also with an ever-increasing costs for employers and families. Here are a few of my takeaways from our conversation. First, I was intrigued by Morgan Health’s collaborative approach to building their Accountable Care Model and other solutions, be it capital investments or partnerships. Their intent is to be flexible with experiments in their own markets, while keeping an eye towards scalable solutions for employers nationwide. Next, pay attention to how the team will evaluate success. Beyond returns on investment, they want employers to raise the expectations of what our healthcare system should deliver advanced primary care and behavioral health, better population health outcomes, and improved health equity metrics across the board. Dan believes that that only happens if employers can articulate these expectations and motivate insurers and providers accordingly. And lastly, I’ve known Dan for better than a decade and I’ve always been impressed by his leadership approach. It was interesting to hear him reflect on building out this new team, which operates as a startup within a large and historic financial institution. Listen for his emphasis on values that have carried him from job to job – the top of that list being collaboration, integrity, and innovation. So with that, for the first time this year, let’s head to The Table.

Dan, so happy to connect with you this afternoon. Welcome to The Academy Table.

Dan Mendelson 2:31
Great to be here with you.

Renee DeSilva 2:33
Dan, you are one of the people I enjoy spending time with, so it’s wonderful to connect with you. I was reflecting, leading into this conversation, that across my career, you have been pretty pivotal when I was thinking about making different career moves a couple times, I was trying to work with you directly so it’s really a delight for me to catch up.

Maybe we can start by you framing for our audience a little bit about the early forces that shaped your career and interest in healthcare. You’ve done so much in the healthcare ecosystem. Let’s just start with how you arrived.

Dan Mendelson 3:09
So first, I’m equally thrilled to be here with you. And I’ve always loved their conversations that I’m still hoping that at some point in our future that we actually get to work together in the same organization. I’m kind of the optimist so I’ll say that’s going to happen at some point.

Gosh, early shaping. I’d probably start that my dad is a cardiologist, and he worked at the Washington Hospital Center, which of course, then became MedStar for 52 years. Growing up around our kitchen table there, there were not very many subjects that he was more passionate about than cardiology and so we, from the time that my brothers and I were very young, we all got our cardiology degrees sitting there in Bethesda, Maryland, so not only did he talk about the practice of cardiology, which was very clinical at that point, he wasn’t an interventionalist. But he really came home with a kind of a passion for his patients. And, and by virtue of it being an inner-city hospital, he saw all sorts of patients with all sorts of needs, and was just so caring for them. And just to kind of, we’re also privileged to work in the healthcare space, because it is personal, and it’s passionate, and we’re working with people. And so that element to me is really, I would say, kind of a major motivator.

Renee DeSilva 4:39
You sort of then started your career from a policy regulatory perspective and then began to weave in sort of business fundamentals as part of that. So just talk about, I think maybe one of your earlier roles was at OMB talk about that, and then how that sort of meandered over time.

Dan Mendelson 4:59
Yeah, I’ve always had a passion for that intersection of public policy and business strategy and kind of coming right out of I actually did my undergraduate work in music at Oberlin Conservatory. So there was kind of a little bit of an interlude there, so to speak, where I was playing professionally in Boston. But then what, what helped me to kind of refine health policy as a career option was I started working with a wonderful researcher at Tufts University named Bill Schwartz, and he was doing research on a lot of different areas related to help economics, workforce issues, the effects of managed care was really kind of a Master’s class in health policy before I ended up going back and then doing a master’s that at the Kennedy School, and then I worked in consulting for many years before OMB, the OMB job was was fantastic, because I always wanted to work in government. And for anyone who hasn’t done it, I strongly recommend it because the government pays for so much of health care and regulates the rest of it, it’s very important to understand how the government relates and kind of where, where those, those areas of focus lie and why government programs are the way they are. While I don’t be I was able to be involved in getting health insurance to 10 million children’s through the establishment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, that was all, all really great, but it’s kind of this relationship between business practice and government was always I would say was the thing that I was most interested in.

Renee DeSilva 6:40
Then you founded Avalere Health, spent more than 20 years running that organization. Then at some point, you had the opportunity to scan and figure out where you want it to make your impact next. And so talk us through why Morgan Health. What about that opportunity, the problem that it’s aiming to solve really spoke to you.

Dan Mendelson 7:00
So I’d say that first, I’d spent a lot of my career focusing on Medicare and Medicaid, and kind of the issues attended to that. And I think that there’s relatively less focus on the 150 million Americans who get their health insurance through their employer. The policy agenda is so focused on the public programs, and it’s understandable why, but I don’t think that we solve the issues of the healthcare system without an equal focus on the employer markets. And so these are markets that I haven’t spent as much time in. And so that was, I would say, one, one motivator, for me, I’d say a second is that given, given where I am, in my career, the idea of deploying capital is really attractive to accelerate innovative practices. Because I’ve encountered so many incredibly talented teams and people and feel like, like, the way to accelerate progress is to work with, with teams that are really well functioning and very, to work very collaboratively. And so the idea of working collaboratively with other organizations and to be able to fund them to accelerate their innovation was also really super attractive to me. So it was really kind of the it all kind of came together. And maybe one other thing to mention is that JPMorgan Chase is an incredibly supportive environment. And the mission of our organization is very clear. And there’s really been a kind of a warm embrace of these concepts by the bank.

Renee DeSilva 8:44
If you were to articulate the core mission of Morgan Health for those that may be less familiar, how would you frame that?

Dan Mendelson 8:52
Yeah, our mission is to drive innovation in employer-sponsored health care. So you can kind of think about the way that we’re framing it out, it’s innovation. And then it’s the employer-sponsored portion of the market that we are focused on. So we have been allocated $250 million from the firm’s balance sheet to invest. And it’s an initial allocation. And we are deploying that capital to really drive innovative practices. So whether it’s accountable care, or whether it is care, navigation, or whether it’s the application of advanced analytics and places where we believe that we can improve the care for our employees, as well as for the balance of the 150 million Americans who, who get their insurance. Our mission is focused not only internally, but also on the 150 million Americans who get their insurance through their employer.

Renee DeSilva 9:51
That’s really good. I want to unpack that a bit. So 150 million folks covered through their employer. We all note just personally those of us who are employed or in the business of employing people, that premium 21,000 for an average family right now that’s grown by 55% since 2010. So a pretty meaty problem to solve. There have been a number of approaches and trying to really get at how do you more effectively manage the benefits spanned from an employee perspective? What are you bottling from other experiments that we’ve seen industry-wide? And then maybe how do you think about Morgan Health being really well positioned as a result of some of the lessons learned?

Dan Mendelson 10:33
We’ve thought a lot strategically about where to go first. And this concept of accountable care is, is really one that we believe, has a lot of potential where you have clinically-led teams that are responsible for quality and cost philosophically, we believe really strongly that the quality element and in particular thinking about population health, reducing cholesterol, helping diabetic patients manage their A1Cs, making sure that employees have routine cancer screenings, if you think about the kinds of population health metrics that have become prevalent in Medicare and Medicaid, are really not being used in the employer market. So we want to bring that mentality of improving population health into the employer markets. And that’s really the organizing principle for a lot of what we’re doing right now.

Renee DeSilva 11:31
You talked about this a moment ago, but I think it’s interesting to go back to it a bit you the strategy, driving improvements through a capital allocation, 250 million initially, with maybe more to come, you then talked a little bit around the JP Morgan Health benefits or the reach of your employee base as a good lab, if you will, to drive broad Accountable Care and pop health strategies. And then the third leg is I heard you talk a little bit about it as around promoting health equity. Let’s double click on the way that you think about the allocation, I think you maybe you made your first initial investment in Vera Whole Health, how would the decisions made around where you put those dollars to work, and what in particular about that particular investment made the team excited.

Dan Mendelson 12:14
First, we have a whole set of investment criteria, and it’s a process. We have an investment committee, it looks a lot like a private equity firm in that aspect. So we are a strategic investor, meaning that we will not look at a company unless it is directly related to the mission, which we talked about before, which is driving innovation and employer-sponsored health care. And then further to that, we’ve refined our areas of focus, accountable care, care, navigation analytics is really being the first areas that we’re going to focus on, I’d say, there are certainly others. For example, we’re delving in very deeply into behavioral health right now, we as a country face a crisis around mental health, given where we are, given the pandemic, and given what we see in the case rates. And so that’s a place where we’re thinking a lot doing a lot of foundational work and hope to also be investing. There are other areas that I’m sure that we will get into over time, but we’ve really focused on what is going to promote the mission, and, in particular, kind of this concept of accountable care. And I’ll say also, we have a balanced scorecard that we are using to assess our progress. So we have a whole set of metrics ourselves that, that we’re being held accountable for, that we’ve developed and, and some of them are, are related to the health of our employees, like the A one season, the cholesterol levels that I mentioned before, some of them relate to the availability of accountable care models nationally. So that pertains back to the 150 million Americans who have their insurance to their employer. And then, of course, we’re looking to achieve a strong market return on the investments that we make. It’s really all three of those areas that we’re focused on simultaneously.

Renee DeSilva 14:17
It’s fascinating. Given that way that you’re approaching it, how has that then driven the ways in which you’ve shaped the core team? Because many of these functions you would not actually see under one umbrella, so it’s really interesting. Curious how that’s impacted recruiting and the team that you’ve assembled.

Dan Mendelson 14:34
Yeah, we have great people. I’m smiling because that has really been one of the big pleasures of this position so far. Because we’re very mission-oriented, we have attracted mission-oriented people who want to make a difference. It’s not only that, that they have a certain sense They’ll said, it’s also that they’re passionate about driving change, and they’re ready to take on the employer sector, and it’s not for the faint of heart, by the way. We can talk about why it’s so hard, it is hard, but so I’d say that that kind of the commonalities are passion and an interest in taking on big problems. In the area of healthcare innovation, we have Don Ali who joined us out of CMS, where she was Chief Strategy Officer of CMMI. We have Rifka Friedman, a phenomenal person who ran the state demos program at CMMI before she joined us. We have also a fair amount of talent from the health insurance industry, we have some folks off the hill, it’s kind of a diverse mix of talent there.

Then the second skill set is transactional because ultimately, we’re placing capital. So we have there, Dan Hartman, who joined us he actually was a wonderful legacy item from Haven, but he came with experience from Goldman Sachs and a number of other kind of financial institutions, and then supplemented him with another senior investor, Jeff Reese, who came out of HealthBox, and a number of other private equity investing organizations. And then on the health equity side, we also felt a real passion for bringing in expertise. And we were joined by Nellie Kinnison who came out of Avalere, who has been doing health equity for a decade and is leading a lot of our efforts there.

I could go on and on about the team. I’m leaving wonderful people out. It’s a great group. We’ve got about 20 staff so far. We have another 10 headcounts allocated. Where we are right now is that given the talent that we have. We’ll probably take a little bit of a breather and figure out what we need going forward before we reinvigorate the hiring process.

Renee DeSilva 17:03
Yeah, it sounds like a really great cross-section of talent, which would make up a fun place to work. Maybe expanding on that a bit. Your approach, when I’m listening to you, feels very much like partnering, finding things that are working and working to maybe accelerate those further. I know that you’ve already assembled some existing partnerships with Kaiser around health disparities. So just talk about how you see the role of partnership and maybe bring to life a little bit more about the Kaiser work that you have underway.

Dan Mendelson 17:35
Maybe before I go into Kaiser, I’ll take a step back on Vera, because you asked us about Vera before, but that’s our first major entry in the market if you will. I’m equally excited about the Kaiser work, but Vera was first I want to give them a feeling if that’s okay.

Renee DeSilva 17:55
Yeah, please.

Dan Mendelson 18:00
I mentioned before that we have 285,000 employees and dependents, and one of the interesting things about JPMorgan Chase is that about half of our employees and dependents are concentrated in seven geographies. So we have large concentrations of employees in Columbus, Ohio, in Wilmington, Delaware, and Plano, Texas. And there are a number of other geographies where we are a relatively large fish in a relatively smaller pond. And so it’s really those geographies that we are going to be focused on because I think that, philosophically, one of the things that we feel strongly about is we want a nationally consistent benefit. And we also want to make sure that we are engaging the delivery system, which is local, by definition, and so you look at each of these different markets, and this from your membership, that they’re all really different. And New York City is different from Boston is different from Columbus. And so we’re taking a very geographic-specific approach to making these accountable care models available. And so Columbus is a great site for us because it’s a major call-center operation for the bank. And it’s, it’s really a place where, where there are some outstanding providers. And so there’s a primary care practice, Central Ohio primary care, which is loved by our employees, I think about half of our employees who have a committed primary care relationship haven’t already through CNPC which means that they’re a great partner for us kind of coming out of the box and the very partnership is with CRPC and wearable health and wonderful private equity firm involved in that one, CDNR, and in particular, Robbie Sachtler, who is our partner in that venture. We went in because we can pull this partnership together with Ravi because we saw the capabilities of Vera. And then we also saw their passion for delivering forests product to employer markets. And so that’s why it was the first one. And we’re working with and we’re developing out this product, and we will launch it, probably, it’s a little hard to say exactly when it’s going to launch because we want to get it right, as opposed to getting it fast. It’ll launch certainly by the beginning of next year, and we will be offering this Accountable Care model with a really wonderful kind of primary care friend and to our employees, we’re really very excited about that. So that’s the first project out of the box.

Renee DeSilva 20:46
That’s great. Then the idea would be your sort of build a test case in Ohio, figure out what works there, and then adapt it to the other markets where there’s some density in terms of employee population?

Dan Mendelson 20:56
First, everything that we do is intended to be scalable to the market so what we don’t want to do is enter into like a center of excellence partnership with a local provider, that could not be used elsewhere. So that the Vera model is already being deployed in other markets. The focus for us with Vera is in Columbus, we are not wedded to only using Vera in our pursuit of accountable care, we will undoubtedly be working with other organizations as well as we move forward, so the idea is not to not to necessarily use, we think of us really an organization that is interested in innovation, and testing and kind of moving, moving the ball forward to provide really outstanding care, not only to our employees but also nationally. And that does involve a fair amount of experimentation. But we will certainly be working with other organizations as well as Avalere.

Renee DeSilva 22:05
That makes sense. All right. So now talk me through, maybe the complexion of the Kaiser partnership.

Dan Mendelson 22:10
The Kaiser partnership is great. There’s an organization that is incredibly data-rich so, by virtue of their operating model, they have really excellent data. When we started, initially, our focus on health equity, we really wanted it to be a data-driven approach, that then involved very clear performance guarantees. I mean, we believe, fundamentally, that our providers, as well as the organizations that are responsible for the care of our employees, really should be our partner in the elimination of any disparities that we see. So you have to start with, what are the disparities that we are looking to eliminate, and then put in place incentive programs and the Kaiser team completely understood that from the get-go, and they’re also in a position where they can actually do something about it, because they have the data, they can analyze the data, they have enough of the relationships and the leverage to engage with their providers so that they can communicate like, what’s important, and what’s interesting, and what’s really where the requirements are. We’re in a process with them right now, where we’re putting the five points in the details around a set of performance guarantees, that are around closing any gaps that we identify that exists in that population. So we’re really very excited about that. When we announced this partnership, we were really gratified and our contacts at Kaiser came back and said that a number of other employers called them and said, hey, we’d like in on this, and we’re thrilled about that, because like, we’re not, we’re not about doing proprietary things, we’re about driving change. And so if there are other employers who want to work with us on that, all the better. And it’s also our hope that our carriers will be able to do the same thing. It’s in the fee-for-service world. It’s not as data-rich, at least you don’t have the outcomes. Information that the Kaiser team will but But nonetheless, I think it’s it’s viable. And as an approach, we hope that, that everyone who’s doing business with us is going to be as excited as we are about taking on these performance guarantees and helping to eliminate any disparities that exist in our populations.

Renee DeSilva 24:39
What’s so interesting as I’m listening to you talk is that the health equity conversation is typically not as attached to employer-based coverage. It tends to not come up, so what I’m looking forward to as you all track this (and I know that you’ve got some of your roots in the analytics space, too) would be what do you all learn from that that can be shared industry-wide in terms of Morgan Health as a catalyzer of models like that getting adopted that maybe you’re not directly involved in?

Dan Mendelson 25:07
This is, to me, is kind of the exciting part about this, which is that employers really do have the ability, and I would say, even the imperative to raise their expectations of what has been delivered in the health care system. We need more population health, we need more preventive care, we need more attention to outcomes, and we need a delivery system that is ready to address these disparities that we see. And it’s just, it’s not acceptable. To just talk about it, we have to be putting in place mechanisms through which these issues can be addressed. And it’s, it’s really interesting, that the idea, like in government, and Chiquita books, for sure, who’s wonderful, and I think doing a great job over a CMS administrator. And she’s a person by the way that I worked with her at OMB, she was on my staff at all B. And then she came over and she was with us at Avalere for about five, six years. And we had a great relationship there. And now she’s at CMS. So I actually got to two separate, interesting times to work. But now there’s a lot of information going back and forth between us and CMS right now because we’re passionate about the same, the same things. And look, she has mechanisms for both Medicare and Medicaid. And I think she will be using those payment system levers, as well, but she doesn’t have levers over the employer sector, we do. And employers do have the ability to articulate this expectation and to motivate the insurers as well as providers to adopt these practices. So this is a time where employers have to step up and articulate these expectations and put in place these mechanisms. So that’s what we’re trying to motivate here.

Renee DeSilva 27:03
If we’re having this conversation, maybe five years from now, I know you mentioned the balanced scorecard in terms of many ways in which you evaluate success, but is there a metric that the team is rallying around? Is there sort of a North Star that you think would be the best indicator that all these various experiments is really moving the needle? What are you looking to making that?

Dan Mendelson 27:25
We have a specific clinical population health improvement metrics, we want to see improvement in all of those areas that we have a specific quantitative improvement that we’re looking to see, with respect to health equity, we’re also looking at those standard measures to make sure that we address any inequities that we have in our population, and they’re different from the government, kind of Medicaid is different from Medicare is different from commercial. Thank God we do not have issues with low birth weight babies and maternal death. You hear Chiquita talking about that a lot because that’s, that’s the most important target in Medicaid. We don’t have that issue. And so we’re going to be focused elsewhere in terms of helping to get our population metrics under control. Again, we kind of go from the data and then progressed from there.

Renee DeSilva 28:23
Yeah. And then I guess the other piece that would be interesting, too, as you learn what either holds the line on benefits, increase or benefit, spend increase for JPMorgan, or can take a bite out of it, just the extent to which we could rapid cycle, things that are working relative to that model more broadly.

Dan Mendelson 28:42
Interestingly, just to be super clear, this is not a cost-cutting exercise for JPMorgan Chase. And the head is this great meeting with our CFO where—before I walked into his office, and before I started the meeting—he was like, Do not tell me, you are going to save me money. At this point, like anybody in health care who walks into the CFOs office and says, I’m gonna save you money, probably is not going to be in that job for very long. It’s very hard to measure it, it’s really hard to ultimately deliver on that. And I think that look, it’s certainly in my mind, but the more important financial metric that we are thinking about his patient affordability, because the benefit exists for employee retention, and the benefit exists to make people’s lives easier and to improve their health. And it’s the affordability issue that that employer employees in America are struggling with what’s happening of course, as we all know, is that you gave the kind of the $20,000 number which is really from the perspective of both the employee and the employer but every year, healthcare eats more and more out of Americans paychecks, so much so that, for moderate and lower income individuals, it’s consuming any wage gain. And so, I think all of us really have a strong imperative to deal with the affordability aspect of healthcare, not just the cost.

Renee DeSilva 30:21
I think that’s really well said. All right, I want to switch gears a bit and talk about you as a leader. I guess my question for you might be, you have led in such diverse environments, and you’re now sitting, and you’ve called it well, it is a startup inside a historic and such a well-respected institution. I wonder how you’re just approaching transferring lessons, maybe what you’re taking with you from previous leadership roles, maybe what you’re leaving behind? Talk to me a little bit about that.

Dan Mendelson 30:53
For starters, there are certain values that are very important to me, as a human being, and those are the values that I carry from, from job to job. And so it doesn’t really matter where I am, and they involve collaboration is certainly one, integrity is another innovation is another, I mean, kind of like parentheses, you can go on to the Avalere Health website and look at the values. And that’s kind of what I said 20 years ago. Those are things you carry from place to place. And I am a very relationship-oriented and relationship-driven manager, I love people, I love being with people, I love engaging with them, I love seeing people grow, I love seeing them succeed. And so like that is also something that, that motivates me, and I always will, will do everything in my power to structure teams so that happens and that succeeds. And I always want to be in environments where, where I can do that, and where the organization is supportive of those goals, I’d say what modulates from place to place is that you have to be sensitive to the context of the environment in which you’re working. And so own be, it’s an incredibly fast-paced, fast-moving, engaged organization, but the structure of OMB is not going to change, it’s like you don’t go in there thinking, Oh, I’m going to reorganize the place otherwise, it’s a very difficult thing for someone in the health, health path job to do, but really what you can accomplish in a place like that is kind of understanding the history understanding the structure where do you want to prioritize and focus your energies. And so, like this prioritization, the choice that a leader gets, as to where to focus the organization, I think that is the key is really when you start with the values, and then the next thing is like, what are you going to prioritize, because you don’t get to do that many things when you’re the CEO and you’re kind of shaping an organization, you have to be super clear about what you want. There are a lot of people in the organization who have to really understand the vision. So it’s kind of that prioritization, that I think is important, then there is the shaping of the organization, you’d kind of said, you’re a startup within a very well-established, well-respected brand. And that’s exactly kind of the way that we’re organized now, and so, we have to respect both of those, but both of those imperatives, so the startup imperative, the energy, the momentum, the kind of the drive to succeed rapidly. And then the established brand part. A great example of that is JPMorgan Chase is an organization that’s very attuned to cybersecurity. And so everything we do has to meet a very high bar in the cyber area. And that makes complete sense. But that will slow us down for certain things. And so, there has to be a respect for both the startup imperative, as well as the protection of the established brand.

Renee DeSilva 34:20
I love that. I was just going to offer an observation that I had about your style, just in my interactions with you—which gets back to the values—is that you also always, to me, seem grounded. I know faith is a big part of your life and I’ve seen how you’ve made in the frenetic pace that a CEO job can often entail, I’ve just noted in interactions with you that you have found ways to stay really true to what matters beyond the day-to-day. In our interactions, I’ve sort of taken that away and figured out how do I apply that to my own time-spend. I would just offer that to you as an observation.

Dan Mendelson 34:57
That’s, so first of all, thank you for that. I think that it’s always a balance. Hearing you say that kind of makes me think, have I done enough to do that, but look, I’ll say that I do really deeply love my family and have always tried to make sure there’s a balance between the home life and the and the professional life. And I think, frankly, that makes for a better professional. And so I’ve always really been encouraging of my staff to, to maintain that balance, I’ll say it, it’s never perfect, and in transactional work, oh my god, I mean, there are times when it just doesn’t work. And you just have to say, Hey, I’m going underground for the, for the next couple of days. And I think kind of what’s on the other side of that I’m thinking about, like, some of our transactional folks who, when we’re in the midst of closing a transaction just really have to go heads down. So part of it is the commitment of the individual, but part of it also is, is how, how flexible and supportive their family is. I have really been blessed with a very supportive family and kind of tolerance of some of the craziness of the work at times. It’s a balance, but I appreciate what you said, though. It does cause some introspection whenever you’re thinking about that.

Renee DeSilva 36:29
Oh, absolutely. I’m in the thick of it, too. I still have middle and high school-aged kids and it almost feels like they need more of you now than they did when they were toddlers, so I definitely get that.

All right, last question before we wrap. So the intention of this podcast, The Academy Table, was really around creating space for conversation and just getting back to joy when we’re able to spend time together in person, and so I wonder if you could invite any two people to your table for a conversation, who would they be and why?

Dan Mendelson 36:59
Oh, like any two people?

Renee DeSilva 37:01
No bounds on that. No boundaries.

Dan Mendelson 37:06
No bounds, any two people. I spent a lot of my time just thinking about these healthcare imperatives and how to fix the problems that we all face. And when, when I’m thinking about these issues, there’s kind of a lot of managers I think are kind of you think about it conceptually, and you think we’ll swing for the fences, the titans of the IT companies or maybe the people who who are running really large corporations, but I don’t think that’s where, where the change is going to come from. And so if the goal of a conversation is to kind of move healthcare forward, which is kind of my mindset, at this point in my life, the conversations that I want to have are with Miss Fowler and Chiquita, and people who are managing the benefits are kind of committed to change from really outstanding fortune 100 companies, and these are the kinds of conversations that I want to have right now. Because it’s like, the practicality of it is really important, so I would say, I’ll probably have those conversations with people who are managing healthcare institutions and engaging in that way. And those are the conversations that I’d love to have when things get back to normal. So I’ll take a pass on the titans of industry and then go for kind of my peers across government and industry.

Renee DeSilva 38:45
That’s fantastic. Well, I should have asked this question. Maybe this is now my final question. What instrument did you play? You mentioned that you performed What was your instrument?

Dan Mendelson 38:52
I played violin and viola. In fact, I played a little note back I played a concert at a nursing home called rabbits house in December with a wonderful band called locks and vodka. And actually my brother who plays the bass, I have two brothers I and we’re we all play something but my brother plays the bass and he’s an excellent klezmer bass player. So he and I played together at that concert in December for a very appreciative audience of octogenarians.

Renee DeSilva 39:25
That’s amazing. All right, that’s a perfect place to land. And thank you so much for your time today. It was good to catch up.

Dan Mendelson 39:31
My pleasure. Thanks for the conversation.

Renee DeSilva 39:34
Thanks again for joining me at the table. The Table is a podcast produced by the Health Management Academy. Make sure you catch future episodes by visiting our website,, or by subscribing on the podcast platform of your choice, and if you have suggestions for topics or guests, I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me a note at I look forward to talking with you soon.