Rick J. Carlson, a renowned health consultant and one of the prime architects of the Health Maintenance Organization program (HMO) died of a heart attack on Friday, Feb. 13. Rick, who lived with his family in Aspen for 20 years, had an impressive, illustrious and full career. Born in 1940 in Minneapolis, Rick went to St. Olaf College and then went on to receive his JD at the University of Minnesota.
In 1968, Rick joined the institute of Interdisciplinary Studies (currently Interstudy of Minneapolis) as a research attorney where he drafted the legislation which initiated the HMO movement across the country. Following this work he was invited to be a visiting fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, Calif., and during his 18-month tenure there he published his first book, “The End of Medicine,” which was a seminal book in the health field. His work at the center on issues pertaining to law and justice led to the writing of his second book, “The Dilemmas of Punishment” in 1976.
While living in California, Rick served as the chairman of the California governor’s council on wellness and physical fitness and became the first director of the California Trends Project. Over the years, Rick worked as a consultant to major institutions in the health care industry, such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield Associations of America, the America Hospital Association, the Health and Human Services Administration, the MacArthur Foundation and others. In 1978, Rick authored “The Frontiers of Science and Medicine” and in 1985 co-authored with Clement Bezold “The Future of Work and Health.” From 1987 to 1990 he served as president and chief executive officer of NewHealth Centers/PPP Inc. which worked in the development and establishment of Primary Prevention Program Centers and state-of-the-art risk assessment systems. In addition, Rick was “of counsel” to Epstein, Becker and Green, P.C., a law firm with offices across the U.S. Rick also served as the president and CEO of HealthMagic, a health care technology company headquartered in Denver and was vice chairman of Age Wave Health Services located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 1987, Rick co-authored “Issues and Trends in Health” with Brooke Newman and in 2002 co-authored with Gary Stimeling “The Terrible Gift,” an assessment of the promises and perils of biotechnology.
In 2001, Rick became clinical professor at the Policy Programs Department of Health Services and affiliate professor in the Department of Pharmacy, School of Public Health at the University of Washingtom, Seattle.
Rick’s enormous body of work was an impressive accomplishment, but his absolute greatest achievement in life was as an extraordinary, loving, devoted, wonderful father to his four children, Blue (Gyorgy), Joey, Josh, and Rebecca and his stepchildren, Nikos and Samantha Hecht.
He will be dearly missed at the Aspen Ice Garden where he spent many an hour proudly watching Blue and Joey playing hockey. And, indeed, Rick will be missed by the hundreds of people he deeply influenced and touched personally.
The date for a memorial service will be announced within a few weeks.