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Aaron Byzak

Young lobbyist for UCSD Health Sciences has lofty goals

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There might have been a time that the director of government and community affairs for a large regional health organization had an obscure job that didn’t elicit much conversation.

This isn’t that time. The national conversation brought death panels, mandates, Obamacare, Romneycare, Hillarycare, cost curves and other words and phrases into the collective vernacular. And with it, the job of communicating the concerns of a health system with those it interacts with became one that’s likely to generate lively dinner conversation.

At University of California, San Diego Health Sciences, that job falls on 35-year-old Aaron Byzak.

And if things work out in his long-term plan, he’ll eventually take his role to Washington, D.C., as Health Policy Advisor to a future U.S. president.

“My job is to navigate the troubled waters where business, politics and health care converge,” he said. “There are so many influences going into it and things you have to project, and you have to be Nostradamus and make business decisions to account for those things. It’s difficult to do.”

In a representative example, Byzak shoulders the load of preparing UCSD Health Sciences for the state health benefit exchanges that need to be put in place by the first day of 2014, as dictated by the 2008 health care overhaul. To date, only Utah has responded to the policy and put an exchange in place. Massachusetts has one too, though it was put in place when then-Gov. Mitt Romney reformed the state’s health care system in 2006.

Of course, the 2014 deadline is anything but certain following the three days of argument in the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of the health care law. The high court is set to deliver its ruling on the law in June. That’s one data point for Byzak to consider in preparation for a system that has a series of battling interests.

“You have legislatures, health plans, hospitals, doctors and patients who all have skin in the game and a different approach,” he said.

"You look at the tremendous task California has to create exchanges, do it effectively, and to keep costs down. For us it’s looking at what the benefit exchange might look like: will it hurt us, will it pose opportunities, and what challenges will it pose? But it’s one small piece of the puzzle that I’m looking at.”

His main job on a daily basis is to lobby elected officials in favor of policies that benefit UCSD Health Sciences and against those that don’t. That’s the culmination of an eight-year plan that started with him as an EMT and included getting an MBA in health care management.

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