Seltz Hired As Director Of New Health Policy Commission

(Updated at 6:10)

A young State House-honed health policy protege will direct Massachusetts’ effort to model health care cost control, WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports.

David Seltz, age 31, wrote parts of the state’s health care cost control law and will now run the agency assigned to make it work. Seltz has earned the respect of a wide variety of health care leaders, says Rick Lord with Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

“He’s very professional, very balanced in his views and he will work tremendously hard,” Lord said. “That is important as well because of the daunting tasks that face the health policy commission.”

Seltz, who most recently served as Gov. Deval Patrick’s Special Adviser on Health Care Cost Containment, says one of his top priorities will be putting mental health on equal footing with all health care in Massachusetts.

David Seltz, the new executive director of the state's Health Policy Commission

David Seltz, 31, executive director of the state’s new Health Policy Commission

Here’s Martha’s Q and A with Seltz:

MB: Why do you want this job?

I want this job because the work of the commission is critically important to the long term future of Massachusetts. Addressing health care costs while improving quality is one of the great challenges and I believe that the work of this commission is critically important to making that a success.

You were hesitant about taking this position, why?

I have been involved in state government for my entire career working in a number of different policy areas. In reflecting on this opportunity, I wanted to make sure that it was the right one for me and for the board. I was unsure if this was the right fit for myself and for the commission. Ultimately the importance of this work imparted to me that I needed to apply for this job and put myself out there.

What are the things you most want to make sure get done right?

One of the most important things is to approach this position with a sense of collaboration and cooperation with the health care industry. There are a lot of talented and well respected people in the Commonwealth who are working hard on these issues. What I want to accomplish is to bring all that talent into the Health Policy Commission, to tap those resources and be able to leverage all of the abilities of physicians, nurses, providers, industry leaders and advocates to help make the work of the commission a success.

The integration of behavioral health with other medical care is a top priority for this law and for the commission. Integrating mental health services we know can save us money and it’s the right thing to do for patients.

What challenges in the law keep you up at night?

The scope of this law and the work of the commission is daunting. The thing that will keep me up most at night is thinking about the ways we’re encouraging change that will affect patient care, and the opportunity and mandate that we do so in a way that ensures that quality is being improved, that patient access is being maintained and that we are working towards a better health care system for Massachusetts.

Does the pressure of the national spotlight on Massachusetts get to you?

There will be some national attention on everything we do here in Massachusetts. The federal government always looks to us as a test state for these policies. And, because every other state is wrestling with health care costs, they will be looking to see what we do here too. My focus will be on Massachusetts and making this model work and be a success. Success speaks most loudly and working with this board and with this commission, I believe we have the opportunity to do that.

As soon as Seltz was confirmed today, the praise started rolling in.

Here’s a statement from State Senate President Therese Murray’s Office:

“David is the most qualified person to help Massachusetts take this next step forward. He has worked to bring the Commonwealth through a framework of nation-leading health care reforms, including this year’s landmark cost-control legislation. David has proven himself to be an invaluable expert in the areas of health care reform and health care cost and his expertise is recognized on an international level. David has dedicated his entire career to understanding the health care industry and, in this new role, he will continue to guide the industry through these changes to help ensure that we are successful in our cost reduction goals.”

And here’s Lora Pellegrini, President & CEO, Massachusetts Association of Health Plans:

“On behalf of our member health plans, we applaud the Health Policy Commission for naming David Seltz as its first Executive Director. David brings a wealth of knowledge to the position, having been intricately involved in the development of the state’s major health care laws over the last six years in senior positions with Senate President Murray and the Patrick administration. His experience on those issues and familiarity with the state’s health care system make him a terrific choice. “We look forward to working with David and members of the Commission as they proceed to implement the state’s landmark Payment Reform Law to make health care more affordable for Massachusetts employers and working families.”

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