Today we mourn Andrew Hyman, a smart and strategic leader whose behind-the-scenes work led to numerous health reforms and improvements to our nation’s health and health care, a lead program officer at the country’s largest health philanthropy, and a friend to Health Access California and dozens of state-based consumer advocates.
His colleagues at The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have highlighted many fitting testimonials to Andy from a who’s who of the health policy world, comments that give you a sense of his work, in philanthropy and previously at the Department of Health and Human Services.
I remember getting to know Andy over a decade ago at health policy conferences in DC, where early on he had a thrillingly realistic sense of how health reform could be advanced–what combination of state reforms and momentum, election results and political forces, policy developments and trends, and specific vote-counting in the Senate could combine to yield expanded coverage. His vision embraced not just policy but being mindful of politics; not just research and education but the crucial role of organizing and advocacy, not just elites but movements, and not just federal but state-based work. He helped establish and champion the Consumer Voices for Coverage program at Robert Wood Johnson, which provided support for Health Access and other groups working on California health reforms working in coalition as Its’ Our Healthcare! and Having Our Say, as well as other consumer advocacy coalitions in other states. These state-based efforts that he helped support built critical infrastructure for winning health reform nationally soon afterwards.
Rather than declare victory, he worked to support state-based implementation of Affordable Care Act–both the needs of the state policymakers, and of the advocates that shape the environment in which they work. It’s hard to think of too many other people who can credibly claim to have been a part of the success in as many states as Andy could–even if he would never have sought such credit. He will be missed by health reformers and advocates in DC and throughout the country, and unknowingly by many who never knew his name but felt his impact.
He was always approachable and affable: On a trip back East, I offered to meet him at his office in New Jersey, but he arranged to meet more conveniently for me in New York. Last September, he expressed worries about second open enrollment period, and wanted to be comforted by the report on the ground in California. He asked me for critiques of what he and his foundation colleagues were doing, and actually wanted the answer–even though he knew them already. Even when California wasn’t a grantee in recent rounds of funding, Andy continued to be a source of support and strategy–sending an E-mail appreciating a snide quote of mine in Politico, talking about emerging issues for funders and policymakers, offering concern and advice about balancing work and family life. As I wrote a state advocate colleague this morning, I’ll very much miss him and my twice annual conversations with him. The last few were poignant if not profound, so I’ll always remember them.
My colleague Judi Hilman, who worked with him when in her previous job in Utah, had her own remembrances:
I got to work with Andy when I was running Utah’s health policy shop, Utah Health Policy Project, and I (and my friends back in Utah) will always be grateful for his willingness to bring us and other red states to the Consumer Voice for Coverage table. No matter how difficult it was to implement the ACA in our states, Andy kept our eyes on the prize and in his gentle way he reminded us that we should never compromise our vision for reform, even if we had to take twisted paths to get there.
I will certainly miss Andy’s commitment to bipartisanship—even after so many in the reform community seemed to give up. On his own, Andy reached out to red state Governors like Utah’s Herbert to help them find a voice or a role in the process—one day, in fact I bumped in to him on the street in Salt Lake after his meeting with Herbert’s staff. It didn’t take much schutzpah for me to invite him to come to our coalition strategy conference later that day. He showed up, of course, and offered thoughtful and provocative reflection. Andy’s memory will help me and so many of us keep that slow drumbeat going for real reform, in blue and even in red states.