Chuck Zech, one of the most gracious executives the
“I think we’re all still recovering a month later. It was such a shock,” said Lynda Zeller, KHP senior director and acting executive.
“Kent Health Plan was the pride of his entire career. He came out of retirement to do it. He had such passion for it. To be able to do this health-care plan for people who otherwise would not have any insurance just completely motivated him. It’s quite an honor to carry on his legacy,” added Zeller, who was mentored by Zech and has been a member of the KHP board since 2001.
And that legacy has grown a bit past the nearly 5,000 members KHP now serves.
In addition to the three health plans and the discount prescription drug program for seniors that Zech got KHP to offer, the organization also is administering a grant that Cherry Street Health Services received from the federal government.
The HCAP grant may be good for three years and is worth around $900,000 this year.
“Those federal dollars are specifically for the purpose of helping communities build bridges that increase access to health care for people that are uninsured or underinsured,” said Zeller.
“The money will help existing programs to reach out in a more effective way and to spin off new programs that need to be built to fill new gaps.”
The federal money will make up most of a $1 million budget that
will have this year to accomplish the program’s three goals. The first is to boost access to primary and secondary care for those with little or no insurance coverage, and to conduct research on what needs to be done to meet that goal.
“The health department is a key lead on that, as well as Kent Health Plan and Project Access, which is the medical society and osteopathic society’s plan,” said Zeller.
Increasing access to medications for those without coverage is the second goal. Zeller said KHP has had such a plan on the drawing board for about a year and Therese Riley of Spectrum Health is heading that effort.
The third goal is to coordinate chronic disease protocol via a management information system and to track health disparities among people of color.
“Hopefully, the program is going to really take off in years two and three. Right now, we’re building the infrastructure for it in this first year. We’re linking all 11 of the Cherry Street Clinics and one of the hospital clinics into the MIS system and it will gradually build over the next three years,” said Zeller.
Spectrum Health, Saint Mary’s Health Care, Metropolitan Health, the Kent County Health Department, Healthier Communities, and a number of local medical societies are participating with Cherry Street Health Services and KHP in the program.
The KHP board of directors will decide soon whether to conduct a search for a new president for the organization or make an offer to Zeller. Board members are scheduled to meet this week.
“They decided to make me acting executive for now and I think the intention of the board is to look at it again,” said Zeller. “I think we’re just all still kind of reeling in shock from Chuck’s quick passing.”