Skip to Content

AHIP Policy Conference Keynote: Prepared Remarks of Matt Eyles, AHIP President and CEO

Press Release

Published Mar 9, 2021 • by AHIP

Good morning, and welcome to AHIP’s National Health Policy Conference for 2021. What a great start to our event.

The video you just saw is part of AHIP’s Care Changes Everything campaign – a new education initiative that spotlights the important ways health insurance providers are working together to deliver affordable and accessible care and coverage to millions of people every day when it’s needed most.

“Care Changes Everything” demonstrates health insurance providers’ commitment to making care and coverage better, more affordable, and more accessible for people. Together, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our fellow Americans through these uncertain times and beyond.

So what does this mean? It means:

  • Going beyond fighting COVID-19 to protect patients with pre-existing conditions.
  • Lowering the cost of prescription drugs for acute and chronic conditions.
  • Supporting vulnerable and older Americans through connections with community resources, social opportunities, and effective ways to maintain and improve their health.
  • And other decisive actions that I’ll talk about in a few minutes.

Today, we all need care and support more than ever before…An advocate…. A partner…Someone who cares about our health as much as we do.

Health insurance providers are playing that role –no matter how small or how large the need.

And over the past year, we have seen firsthand how Care truly Changes Everything.

Health Insurance Providers Through COVID-19

This week, marks one year of the national emergency declaration for COVID-19.

It has been a year of turmoil and struggle for our country and the world, with tens of millions infected…

More than half a million U.S. deaths….

Extraordinary health inequities brought to the surface…

And an economic impact that has hit American families and businesses in every community.

We have also seen great reasons for hope and optimism.

People coming together to support one another in their communities…

Reaching out to care for and assist our seniors and people who are homebound and more susceptible to COVID…

Health care workers bravely fighting the virus on the front lines…

And organizations of all kinds working together to help bridge gaps that threaten the health and well-being of all Americans.

Health insurance providers have been working alongside leaders in their communities.

We went beyond making COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines affordable for everyone….

Invested in rapidly expanding telehealth capabilities so that patients can safely see their doctors remotely and protect the health care system for in-person care of the sickest patients….

We worked with providers to streamline processes, expand capacity, and encourage patients to resume in-person care and preventive services when it was safe to do so….

Supported essential safety net hospitals, small businesses, food banks, housing programs, and other important community needs….

And in just the past week, we extended that commitment, as hundreds of millions more vaccines become available.

Vaccine Community Connectors

Last week, AHIP and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association launched the Vaccine Community Connectors pilot initiative.

This new program aims to ensure the vaccination of 2 million seniors age 65+ in our most at-risk, vulnerable, and underserved communities….and focus on improving health and racial equity in the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.

As vaccine supplies continue to expand and appointment registrations become more available, health insurance providers will use our combined expertise, data, and insights to identify and engage seniors who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and live in areas where vaccination rates are most inequitable.

We will work with partners in these communities to educate seniors on the safety, efficacy, and value of COVID-19 vaccines and answer their questions.

We will contact seniors to help them understand how to get a vaccine, help them get an appointment, and help overcome barriers such as a lack of transportation.

We will work with leaders and closely collaborate with vaccination partners to help get vaccines to underserved communities, such as through mobile vaccine units.

And we will track our progress against our goals to ensure those who need vaccines most are getting them in the coming weeks and months.

COVID-19 vaccines demonstrate the critical importance of strong partnerships between the public sector and private market.

And that is one of the important values embraced by health insurance providers.

We nurture strong relationships within communities and among community leaders. And through those connections, we strengthen access to care and improve health.

Our commitment will not stop with seniors.

We are determined to keep going until together, we achieve community immunity for everyone.

The Vaccine Community Connectors initiative is open to all health insurance providers. And we truly hope each will join us in this commitment.

This is a fundamentally different way of finding solutions to challenges that exist.

It’s been a recurrent theme throughout the past year – another example of the public sector and the free market coming together to take decisive action during a time of crisis.

Five Sustainable Improvements for Health Care

As we look back over the past 12 months, there are five important areas that are well positioned for Sustainable Improvements for Better Care.

First, certainly, is Working Together to Improve Health Equity.

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the persistent discrimination and systemic racism that have served as barriers to health equity for minority and underserved communities.

And everyone has a role to play in fighting racism and improving health equity.

Change requires action. Action begins by listening to the people you serve, and responding to their perspectives, values, and needs.

The Vaccine Community Connectors initiative is just one example of that commitment. But we know there’s much, much more work to be done.

This is a seminal moment for racial and social justice and greater diversity, equity, and inclusion…and we’re just getting started.

AHIP and its members will continue to listen—and to act—until every American has an equal opportunity for good health.

The second important area that will see sustainable improvement is Extended Use of Telehealth.

For years, America’s health insurance providers have offered telehealth coverage as an effective and efficient way to receive care.

But the pandemic has accelerated patients’ and providers’ use and acceptance of digital technologies….transforming it into an essential part of health care delivery. It’s convenient, effective, high quality, and it saves time and reduces care costs.

The COVID-19 crisis has exponentially expanded the use of telemedicine…in our communities and virtually… by educating and encouraging patients to use telehealth…and by introducing new telehealth services for mental health care to address the explosive need for these critical services.

Telehealth goes beyond a virtual visit to your doctor. It also includes digital monitoring equipment, so that patients can receive continual care for their complex or chronic health conditions.

And it includes audio-only engagement – so that all patients, even if they only have access to a telephone, can enjoy the same convenience and benefits of ready access to care.

To ensure telehealth remains a valuable part of the health care experience, AHIP will continue to work with policymakers to strengthen this vital and growing mode of care.

The third area of sustainable improvement is in the Growing Awareness of the Importance of Mental and Behavioral Health.

COVID-19 and the stress….the fear, uncertainty, and isolation of it….have contributed to the soaring demand and need for mental health services in the U.S.

The numbers are alarming: in a CDC survey, 40% of adults reported struggling with mental health conditions attributed at least in part to COVID-19.

Health insurance providers recognized this need early in the pandemic and acted swiftly to make mental health care more accessible and affordable.

Cost sharing was reduced or eliminated, and behavioral health telehealth services were expanded.

New apps and virtual services were launched to support members struggling with illness, stress, and isolation.

We are partnering too – with Psychub to offer free mental health resources based on robust research and cultural relevance….

With The Path Forward and Shatterproof – two initiatives to integrate behavioral health with primary care and increase measurement-based care in behavioral health…

In my own family, I’ve strongly encouraged family members to access mental health services as they’ve felt the stress and strain of the past year.

This growing awareness has hopefully proven once and for all….there is no stigma or shame in asking for help …that we must continue to focus on policy and other solutions that break down silos between mental and physical health care and improve access to mental health services.

Fourth for sustainable improvement: Growing Adoption of Value-Based Care.

The COVID-19 crisis demonstrated that value-based care arrangements provide even greater value than truly realized before.

We have consistently seen throughout COVID that value-based care arrangements can provide stability and continuity for hospitals and providers in a time of crisis – value based providers were more resilient and better able to deliver care to the communities they serve despite the COVID-driven swings in utilization and sites of care.

By rewarding doctors for better patient health, value-based care helps ensure that patients get the right care at the right time, and in the right setting.

We are seeing renewed interest in new and innovative value-based care initiatives, and we’re excited about how these strategies can lead to more effective and efficient health care for many more Americans.

And finally, the fifth area we see for sustainable improvement: Strengthening America’s Existing System of Coverage and Care.

Over the past year, Americans truly saw the protection and peace of mind that their coverage provides. They want to keep what’s working and improve what needs to be made better.

AHIP has consistently advanced policies that do just that.

Providing flexibility and choice. Lowering costs for Americans. Helping American families keep the coverage they have, even during a dire financial crisis.

We believe in solutions that allow health insurance providers and partners in their networks to integrate patient data. We support more personalized price and cost transparency for consumers and their personal data. We are working to simplify the health care experience, from signing up for coverage that’s right for you, to connecting with your post-care treatment plan.

We also believe that we can achieve universal coverage by building on our current health care system.

To that end, we have joined together with the Affordable Coverage Coalition, a group of 8 diverse organizations—including doctors, hospitals, employers, and health insurance providers–working together to deliver the access to coverage, care and health outcomes that the American people want and deserve.

To make coverage more available and affordable, the Coalition supports expanding the ACA’s premium tax credits; steps to make coverage or cost-sharing more affordable; and urging Congress to appropriate more funding to restore resources to navigator, outreach, and enrollment programs.

America’s existing health care system helps millions of Americans with coverage and financial stability. We’re committed to working to ensure their access to coverage is strong, stable, and secure for the future.

Hope for a Brighter Future

So let me wrap with a note of optimism — we have great reason for hope.
America will overcome the COVID-19 crisis.

We have learned important lessons and will make essential improvements for better public health and better individual health for all Americans long-term.

We have forged even stronger public-private partnerships and relationships in our communities fortified by the same goal: better health.

We are more focused and united in our shared commitment to health equity.

Together – this type of caring will change everything for the better.