The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Ethics Program

The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Ethics Program was established in 1996 on the conviction that virtually all Harvard Pilgrim activities have implications for the ethical quality of the care and service our members receive and for Harvard Pilgrim’s mission “to improve the quality and value of health care for the people and communities we serve.” The mission of the Ethics Program is to support Harvard Pilgrim in its management of the values dimensions of its work, in an effective and systematic manner and to be a values leader locally and nationally.

An Ethics Advisory Group (EAG), composed of Harvard Pilgrim employees, members, purchasers, brokers, physician leaders from the Harvard Pilgrim network and representatives of the larger public, meets quarterly to deliberate on cases brought to it by Harvard Pilgrim managers and leaders who desire consultation about the values associated with a particular business decision or activity for which they are responsible. The EAG systematically examines conflicts of values that arise from the legitimate and often competing interests of the various stakeholders whose needs Harvard Pilgrim strives to meet. The Ethics Program has ties to ethics activities around the country and abroad through faculty in the Harvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute Department of Population Medicine.

For more information about the Ethics Program or EAG please contact Anita Wagner, PharmD, MPH, DrPH, Director, at (617) 867-4956.

The Ethics Program functions as a consultative resource for Harvard Pilgrim managers and leaders requesting input on the ethical dimensions of important areas of the business.

The EAG provides a forum dedicated to constructive, multi-stakeholder deliberation about organizational ethical issues. The EAG’s recommendations are neither mandates for nor expressions of policy.

Harvard Pilgrim participants in the EAG are encouraged to become, over time, "ambassadors" for ethical analysis throughout the organization. 

EAG Composition
EAG meetings may comprise 20–35 participants. The intent is to embrace the diversity of perspectives, values, and experiences that exist across Harvard Pilgrim, while maintaining a manageable size. Representation of network providers, employers and brokers, consumers, and members of the policy and ethics community is required.

Internal and External EAG Participants
The Director of the Ethics Program invites EAG participants from within and outside of Harvard Pilgrim in consultation with the Vice President, Corporate Compliance. Individuals are identified by soliciting recommendations from the EAG as well as from Harvard Pilgrim employees, and by more general invitation, e.g., via Harvard Pilgrim publications.  Internal and external guests may attend meetings by invitation of the Program Director. Individuals with an interest in the Ethics Program or a specific topic under consideration by the Ethics Advisory Group are encouraged to reach out to the Program Director.

EAG meetings are not compensated. Participation of internal and external stakeholders is invited in the spirit of collaboration and is entirely voluntary.

Open Discussions under the Chatham House Rule
The intent of the EAG is to facilitate open discussion of ethically challenging issues in a morally diverse society. To encourage open discussion of sensitive topics and facilitate sharing of information, participants agree to abide by the Chatham House Rule, that is, “participants are free to use the information received but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

Leadership Participation
Active support by Harvard Pilgrim leaders of the activities of the EAG is vital to the Group. The Ethics Program Director will provide to Harvard Pilgrim executive leaders regular consultation reports including summary recommendations on each of the topics considered.