The year was 1970. “I was young, I came to Hawai‘i, and I never left,”
says Mike Gold. “That was 42 years ago.” After graduating from UH-Mānoa,
Gold briefly considered pursuing a graduate degree in philosophy. “I had to
make a choice of going to graduate school on the Mainland or staying in Hawai‘i.
It was a pretty easy choice.”
Higher education’s loss became health care’s gain. Gold joined HMSA
in 1974 and, over the next 38 years, held management positions in product development,
underwriting, marketing, and planning. Named chief operating officer in 1997, Gold
oversaw all of the nonprofit’s operating functions, including marketing, provider
services, customer service, account services, and community relations. In addition
to his role as chief architect of HMSA’s innovation and transformation initiatives,
Gold oversaw the company’s work to meet the provisions of the Affordable Care
Act. On December 1, he succeeded Bob Hiam as HMSA’s president and chief executive
As HMSA celebrates its 75th anniversary, Island Scene sat down with Gold
to talk about what members can expect from Hawai‘i’s most experienced
ISLAND SCENE: What do you see as the biggest challenges
for HMSA moving forward?
MIKE GOLD: The challenge is always to stay up-to-date
and contemporary. By “contemporary,” I mean staying in touch with what’s
going on in our community and not thinking that what we’ve always done in
the past is going to work; keeping in touch with our goals, mission, and vision
of what a health plan ought to be; and doing our work in a way that relates to people
on an everyday basis.
IS: Traditionally, HMSA members have relied
on HMSA for medical coverage and benefits. But today when we talk about a health
plan, there’s more than just medical coverage.
GOLD: That’s right. We will always be there for our members.
But we also recognize that to build a sustainable health care system, it’s
more than simply paying claims. We have to do things that we’ve never done
before to make all that happen. We need more collaborative arrangements with physicians
and hospitals. We need to provide our members more and better information so that
they can make informed decisions. I really take that as a sacred trust. When people
join HMSA, they expect us to do that, and we will get that done.
IS: What does HMSA offer its members that sets
it apart from other health plans?
GOLD: We focus on the needs and desires of our members and we do
it in a personal way. I think that’s what we’ve always done and what
distinguishes us from any other local health plan. We believe in what we’re
doing, and we try to do it in a way that is both personal and innovative.
IS: Do you have a vision of what a patient’s
interaction with a doctor will be in 2020?
GOLD: By the time we get to 2020, I really hope we’re at
a point where the patient is at the center of the health care system. I hope the
patient understands what health and health care is, and takes responsibility. That’s
the direction we’re moving in and I think we can be there by 2020.
IS: In the patient-centered model, we talk about
patients having the responsibility to speak up when they see their doctors. Do HMSA
members have an opportunity to tell HMSA what they want and need in a health plan?
GOLD: I believe they do. At HMSA, we are always out there listening,
and we need to do more of that. We aren’t just sitting in our offices waiting
for member phone calls. For example, we have started taking customer service out
into the field to talk to our members. We want to hear what they’re saying.
We try to give our members as many roads into us, to talk to us, through as many
means as we can.