It’s impossible to overstate how much Americans are focused on health care. In early 2020, we did not yet know how much the COVID-19 crisis would change our lives. Now we are keenly aware of sacrifices made, and the more than 420,000 lives lost.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the front-line health care heroes and essential workers that are keeping America running. Thank you also to everyone following safety protocols by wearing a mask, social distancing, and staying at home when they can.
With 180 million people covered through work, nearly 26 million covered by Medicare Advantage, 48 million with Medicare Part D coverage, and 75 million who rely on Medicaid, hundreds of millions of Americans rely on their health plans every day.
As health insurance providers, it’s our job to make sure people can get the care they need, when they need it. During the pandemic, health insurance providers have been alongside Americans every step of the way:
- We covered tests to diagnose COVID-19 at no cost to patients.
- We worked with doctors, hospitals, and other provider partners to ease administrative processes, provide equipment, and expand capacity.
- We advanced payments to hospitals and supported additional funding to financially strained states for their Medicaid programs.
- We also invested to scale up telehealth capabilities so providers could continue to see patients safely.
- We provided premium relief to struggling small businesses to help them keep their coverage.
- We launched new apps and virtual mental health services to support members struggling with illness, stress, and isolation.
- We mobilized our employees to help with virus response in their communities.
Addressing Health Equity
America’s longstanding health disparities have been on tragic display throughout the last year. It is unacceptable that minorities in the United States are becoming infected and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than white populations.
Some studies estimate that more than 70% of a person’s health is tied to factors other than clinical care, and COVID-19 has made efforts to address social determinants of health even more urgent. If things like nutritious food, shelter, transportation, and safety aren’t available, it’s harder for a person to stay healthy or recover from illness.
- In New Orleans, food banks were no longer able to deliver food due to social distancing policies. So Humana repurposed a team of medical transportation vans to deliver food to families in need.
- In the Pacific Northwest, CareOregon is working with local physicians and hospitals to distribute flip phones and simple smartphones to help patients access telehealth services.
- Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey has partnered with community health workers to connect members in need with resources such as food and rental assistance, unemployment, and sanitation supplies.
- At AHIP, we launched Project Link, bringing together the best thinking on how to address social determinants of health and foster long-term well-being.
Equitable vaccine distribution is a top priority, and we are already working with federal, state, and local partners to make sure that vaccines are distributed to the communities and populations that need them most.
We know that we need to support improved vaccine acceptance. Some people are skeptical about any kind of government-endorsed health intervention, thanks to the well-documented history of dangerous health policy and clinical experiments that have targeted vulnerable populations. We will have to work to earn their trust. That’s why we’re partnering with The Ad Council’s vaccine education campaign, which takes a comprehensive approach to reaching out to communities of color.
Delivering Peace of Mind
Above all, Americans have demonstrated their resilience. The pandemic has revealed a wealth of compassion in this country. People step up every day to care for one another: Delivering a homemade meal, checking in on neighbors, or helping plan a socially distanced birthday party. These are the things that Americans should be able to focus on, and it’s why we say that the essential work of our industry is to deliver peace of mind. Our job is to make life easier so our patients can focus on what matters.