Five Questions With: Tom Boucher

Tom Boucher recently began as chief of marketing and development at PACE Organization of Rhode Island. The health plan, which serves older adults interested in maintaining their independence and lives in the community rather than a nursing home, announced that Boucher will help PACE-RI increase participation in its model, part of an effort to boost enrollment in PACE programs nationally.

Boucher joins PACE after 15 years in the marketing and external affairs department at Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, serving as senior manager, where he was responsible for communications, public relations, government affairs, market research and member advocacy. He was part of the marketing team that helped Neighborhood implement changes to support the Affordable Care Act and triple membership, revenue and staffing.

Providence Business News asked Boucher about his experience and the new job.

PBN: How has your time working in the health insurance sector prepared you to increase participation in PACE’s program?

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BOUCHER: I have spent the past 15 years helping to spread the word about innovative options in publicly funded health care here in Rhode Island. This experience has given me some insight into how to connect with adults with significant health care needs and low income. The PACE model is a compelling solution for them because we are both the provider and the insurer, experts in treating medically complex elders who are not always well-served in the traditional fee-for-service system.

PBN: Please describe your experience implementing changes to support the Affordable Care Act.

BOUCHER: Rhode Island’s political leaders had the wisdom to readily implement changes available through the Affordable Care Act. Our state expanded access to Medicaid to all people with low income and developed HealthSource RI, our version of a health insurance exchange. I was part of a team that worked hard to educate new enrollees on how health insurance works, why preventive care and having a primary care doctor is important, and what a difference it can make to have coverage.

PBN: Is there a part of that experience that has proved useful in your new job?

BOUCHER: Yes, being able to explain the complexities of health care in clear and concise language!

PBN: Have you had time to begin planning to aid PACE’s growth? What are your first steps?

BOUCHER: I have focused on three steps so far. First, our CEO, Joan Kwiatkowski, is a visionary in the long-term and community health field and I have been working with her and our staff to understand the particulars of our business and industry.

Second, the National PACE Association recently came out with its plan for growth for the next three years and provided us with a toolkit specific to the Rhode Island market; there is a lot of helpful guidance there.

And third, I have been talking with local marketing experts on the aging demographic, where PACE-RI fits in and how we can better connect with people who need to know about us.

PBN: What about PACE have you learned that would come as a surprise to most outside observers?

BOUCHER: PACE-RI serves frail elders with low income who would otherwise need to go to a nursing home. Forty-three percent of our participants have some form of dementia, yet we help them live safely with supports in the community for an extra four years on average, which is remarkable and a big savings to the state. Also, we have three physical locations, but we serve people from throughout Rhode Island.

Rob Borkowski is a PBN contributing writer.