Medicaid Who’s Who Interview: Friso van Reesema

Where passion for serving others and career meet, there lies Friso van Reesema. Check out his LinkedIn profile.

1. Which segment of the industry are you currently involved?

A:  I’m predominantly involved in supporting community-based Medicaid managed care plans and FQHCs. I support both the payer and provider partner on communicating with vulnerable Medicaid beneficiaries including Duals, CHIP and MLTSS.

2. How many years have you been in the Medicaid industry?

A: My support for Medicaid beneficiaries officially started in 2012, with patient education and engaging vulnerable populations with communications and technology, as well as joining a non-profit Board for health equity. At CipherHealth, I’m continuing in the journey with a strong focus on Medicaid Managed Care Organizations. The passion that these clinical and non-clinical teams have for supporting the vulnerable is commendable. It’s a privilege to arm these teams with tools to improve the quality of their lives from a whole-person perspective. Great progress over the past 6 years!

3. What is your focus/passion? (Industry related or not)

A: Serving others, especially those with fewer means, is an innate passion that my grandfather passed along to me. He served on the Red Cross in the Netherlands and engaged the royal family in this global organization for disaster relief. Those genes made it to my mom and now to me. I’m passionate about education; whether it’s listening to the homeless or members of a local Boys and Girls Club to understand how to support them with education, insights and guidance. Being at the intersection of patient and provider communication is awesome. Bridging the health literacy and time scarcity gap supports both parties. It’s in my nature to help out.

4. What is the top item on your “bucket list?”

A: Speak 8 languages and travel to all 7 continents with my wife and two boys! This way we can order fresh, nutritious and local food in the local language to avoid ordering cow’s tongue. I’d like to do more with my cultural anthropology and public health master degrees by diving deeper into cultural competency in population health communications and tying them to social determinants that I identify from traveling and research to support local health plan outreach, assessments and care coordination.

5. What do you enjoy doing most with your personal time?

A: Keeping the adrenaline and competitive juices flowing by playing tennis in a men’s league is fun and healthy for me, but I really enjoy being on and in the water with my family either sailing or watching them tube and yell with excitement.

6. Who is your favorite historical figure and why?

A: A favorite and lesser known historical, yet current, leader of deconstructing racial disparities and bias is Archbishop Desmund Tutu of South Africa. Tutu is a favorite, because I met him through my grandfather while they were actively supporting South African public health initiatives including sexual assault, HIV prevention, childhood vaccines, etc. Besides bringing back great memories of working with my family, Tutu has an amazing humour and smile that wins over even those jealous of his power as former Archbishop of Cape Town, helping to dismantle apartheid with Nelson Mandela. He received the Noble Peace Prize and is beyond modest about his accomplishments. He’s a ‘must-meet-and-have-dinner-with’ type of legend.

7. What is your favorite junk food?

A: Deep fried ‘bitterballen’ from Holland with mustard sometimes tops Garden Catering’s Chicken Nuggets and cones.

8. Of what accomplishment are you most proud?

A: My two boys and wife are proud of my role in the community. I’m also jazzed by reactions from family and friends around a 5K Mud Run getting local, vulnerable and affluent families together in a muddy course to raise money for our local Boys and Girls Club, which started with 40 participants six years ago and now is maxed out at 800 runners and walkers raising over $175,000 per year for the prominent safety net community program and facility.

Professionally, I’m proud of my longstanding friendships with healthcare executives I’ve partnered with to achieve stretch goals supporting corporate strategy. One such relationship is with Cindy Hallam, when we empowered providers and members with shared decision making for chronic low back pain in Louisiana. The plan won an important State bid beating out National payers with a competitive advantage in provider engagement and involving people in their treatment options around chronic low back pain.

In my previous role educating providers on pain management and anesthesia, I am proud as a CT citizen for empowering community health clinic teams with educational lunch scenarios around how to identify and manage aberrant opioid seeking behaviors. After 3 months of education and empowerment, a local retail pharmacy was held up for oxycontin, because of the reduction in prescribing, which improved provider satisfaction and the State budget.

9. For what one thing do you wish you could get a mulligan?

A:  As a golfer, I take my fair share of mulligans or provisionals. Live is too short for regrets. I have made plenty of less than perfect career and personal decisions that I learn from, remind myself and share with others, which often produces a laugh. Being Dutch, transparency sometimes results in “foot in mouth” syndrome. Life without apologies would leave me mute.

10. What are the top 1-3 issues that you think will be important in Medicaid during the next 6 months?


  1. Support Medicaid recipients with a hybrid Medicaid/exchange product that makes financial sense for them and their family including the impact of work requirements for the potential to graduate to an exchange product for the family. Use incentives just like in the commercial market to change health behaviors!
  2. Medicaid programs and waivers to improve housing stability with incentives for beneficiaries, government, Medicaid MCOs and health systems, as well as the life sciences is paramount for emergency department diversion and reducing unnecessary medical expenditures.
  3. Collaborate more with community-based organizations and social services to optimize resources and exchange data on activities and clinical + non-clinical information to identify opportunities to support beneficiaries and those that manage their health and wellbeing.