Apr 23, 2021
New nationwide Blue health equity strategy
The country’s largest health insurance system has announced a strategy to help address racial health disparities, amid a pandemic that has laid bare the racism that still exists in our health care system
“The crisis in racial disparities in our country’s health care is unconscionable and unacceptable,” said Kim Keck, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, whose member health plans cover 1 in 3 Americans. “While BCBS companies have made great strides in addressing racial health disparities in our local communities, there is so much more to be done.”
Longstanding disparities in health care access, treatment and outcomes have been highlighted during the pandemic, which has struck Black, Indigenous and Hispanic communities with disproportionate rates of infection, hospitalization, and death from coronavirus.
“Our deep roots in the local communities we serve, combined with the scale and scope of our national reach, enable all of us at Blue Cross Blue Shield companies to drive this new strategy and bring real change,” Keck said.
The Association will take steps that include:
- Collecting data to measure disparities
- Working with clinical partners to improve outcomes and address unconscious bias
- Forming partnerships at the community level
- Influencing policy decisions at the state and federal levels.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest not-for-profit health plan, and its foundation have worked for decades to address inequities in care and to advance racial and social justice. That focus was renewed in 2020, amid a nationwide reckoning over race and injustice spurred by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota.
"The death of George Floyd at the hands of police was a moral outrage," Blue Cross CEO Andrew Dreyfus wrote in a public statement after the murder. "Yet we are facing a reckoning that goes far beyond the death of one man. This is a time for all of us to look within and ask what we can do to address racism.... Health care is an issue of social and racial justice."
The new national strategy will complement BCBSMA’s goal of making meaningful and sustained progress toward health equity, which has taken shape over the past several months. The health plan’s current initiatives include:
- Collecting comprehensive, member-level race and ethnicity data that can be used to collaborate with the community and clinical partners to reduce racial and ethnic inequities. The plan is the first in the region to undertake this comprehensive effort, and the initiative has been hailed by leading health researchers.
- Creating metrics and programs to address racial inequities in health care access and quality
- Investing in not-for-profit organizations focused on addressing racial injustice, including a $1 million contribution to the New Commonwealth Fund for Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund
- Partnering with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Pacesetters Program to support a collaborative initiative to promote minority-owned businesses.
- Educating employees on the impact of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic factors on members, and effectively using this information in day-to-day interactions both internally and externally.
Coverage regularly explores health inequities, including an award-winning series by local Black women physicians.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has committed to making broad and sustained improvements in the equity of health care.
said Mark Friedberg, senior vice president of performance measurement & improvement at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
“Our work begins with measurement, which is critical to identifying inequities and holding ourselves accountable for improvement over time. We look forward to collaborating with our provider partners, community leaders, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in these important long-term efforts.”
Did you find this article informative?
All Coverage content can be reprinted for free.
Read more here.
PHOTO OF DR. MARK FRIEDBERG BY MICHAEL GRIMMETT