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Working to Advance Health Equity

Everyone deserves affordable high-quality health coverage and care regardless of the individual qualities that make us who we are, like our race, gender, disability, or health status. Health insurance providers are working to improve health equity by addressing health care disparities; removing social barriers to good health; and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

Expanding health and financial education to an underserved community

Highmark is working with the Thrive 18 project to improve health equity in Pittsburgh’s North Side. The project provides residents with health education, housing advice, financial stability, and connects residents to resources that are impacting individual health.

Diversifying the insurance sales workforce

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has launched a new initiative to expand diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the North Carolina insurance sales workforce. The Health Insurance Agent DEI Initiative consists of investments to help N.C. community colleges launch or expand insurance licensing programs, fund scholarships for eligible students in those programs, and help insurance sales agents hire and retain diverse, qualified talent.

The program builds on the insurer's long-term DEI strategy, which includes expanding insurance sales representation within diverse populations across the state. Health insurance agents play a key role in serving their community by helping individuals and families understand and choose the right coverage plan for their health needs.

Through strategic partnerships and training, Blue Cross NC’s Insurance Agent DEI Initiative will address common challenges that can hinder the professional success of diverse individuals and organizational DEI progress. These challenges include expanding qualified talent pool availability, increasing recruitment and retainment of diverse employees, improving workplace cultural competence and addressing educational financial hardship.

Blue Cross NC will work with North Carolina community colleges to educate, train, and license professionals to prepare them for a career in health insurance sales through semester-long education courses. The company is collaborating with Durham Technical Community College to launch an insurance career program with scholarship opportunities for students in spring 2022.

Working with local groups to reduce health inequities

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas has partnered with Time Texas, a health advocacy organization, to support local organizations and agencies across the state focused on reducing social and health inequities, especially in communities of color affected by COVID-19.

Funding from the collaboration allowed the Burelson Health Resource Center in the Brazos Valley Region to expand substance use counseling and transportation services to better serve low-income, uninsured and older Burleson Country residents. Now, the center can transport people to dialysis appointments every day. Its counseling services offer clients assistance closer to their homes, reducing need for dozens of people to take off work or find transportation to travel outside the county to get the help they need.

In the Rio Grande Valley, Harlingen-based Su Clinica uses its funding from the collaboration to provide nutrition education and economic assistance to 200 low-income patients who are obese and diagnosed with diabetes. Clinic providers write prescriptions for healthy eating and give patients $50 grocery store vouchers and culturally appropriate recipes during appointments. Patients are scheduled for three clinic visits and offered transportation vouchers when needed.

Partnering with the fire and rescue service to proactively reach underserved communities

Care Oregon, working with Portland Fire & Rescue to support the Community Health Assess & Treat (CHAT) program, which is designed to be a proactive intervention, reaching community members in their time of need with 1-on-1 support from a medical professional. CHAT leverages the strengths of PF&R—the city’s largest licensed pre-hospital care workforce to:

  • Provide individuals who call 9-1-1 for non-emergent health issues the care they need in the moment and connect them to the right resources to get them on the path to health improvement (e.g. connected to a Primary Care Physician, enrolled on Oregon Health Plan, etc.).
  • Provide education to community members regarding how to access appropriate healthcare in the future—so they use 9-1-1 as a last resort, instead of their first option.
  • Help reduce the number of individuals going to the emergency department for non-emergent issues.

CareOregon is investing $2.5 million in PF&R’s CHAT program to build its capacity to best serve those eligible for the Oregon Health Plan (OHP).

Partnering with a local university to reduce health care barriers in underserved communities

Inland Empire Health Plan is partnering with Loma Linda University to reduce barriers to health care services in marginalized communities. Inland Empire is training a new community health workforce to accomplish this goal.

In the initial stage of the program’s two-tiered approach, the health plan will professionally train a new community health workforce in an intensive nine-week program. Continuous training opportunities will also be offered to ensure community health workers remain equipped with needed resources. Diversity, equity, and inclusion continues to be the focus of program’s second tier. This includes IEHP’s work to lead external community health worker assignments that empower residents by teaching them how to utilize health care benefits, navigate benefit services, and increase their ability to advocate for themselves in their community.

Creating a new health equity department

L.A. Care has launched a new health equity department. L.A. Care earlier implemented an Equity Council to focus on equity issues involving employees, members, and its contracted provider network and vendors. The council has executed several enterprise-wide initiatives to address member health disparities and social determinants of health. The initiatives included partnering with the LA vs Hate coalition in support of United Against Hate Week activities, and a screening of the Black Men in White Coats documentary, which included a panel discussion.

The new department, which will include 2 new full-time employees, will allow L.A. Care to expand activities related to health equity. Among the upcoming projects is a COVID-19 vaccine project targeting the Black/African American population in South Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley. There will also be cultural humility training for a larger group of L.A. Care management.

Bringing culturally appropriate care to underserved communities

Oscar Health’s Culturally Competent Care Grant program is focused on providing care to patients with diverse values, beliefs, and behaviors, including tailoring delivery to meet patients’ social, cultural, and linguistic needs. A lack of sufficient culturally competent care options in the U.S. contributes to negative health outcomes in underserved communities. Oscar Health has worked with several organizations to provide culturally competent care, including Culture Care, a telemedicine startup that bridges the access gap for black patients to black doctors, and Diversity in Diabetes, which is dedicated to creating awareness and providing solutions to end health disparities and the lack of representation for people of color living with Diabetes.

Creating a health equity accreditation program

UPMC Health Plan has joined a National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) pilot program to develop a Health Equity Accreditation Plus evaluation program. Health Equity Accreditation Plus builds on NCQA’s recently launched Health Equity Accreditation program that sets a robust framework for identifying and closing care gaps.

Health Equity Accreditation Plus builds on these activities for organizations that are more advanced in their health equity procedures and data collection. UPMC Health Plan will work with the other pilot participants to test the concepts and application of Health Equity Accreditation Plus. Feedback from UPMC Health Plan and other organizations will be used to further review, enhance, and streamline the Health Equity Accreditation Plus standards.

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the persistent discrimination and systemic racism that have served as barriers to health equity, and health insurance providers will continue their work to fight racism and improve health equity.

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the persistent discrimination and systemic racism that have served as barriers to health equity, and health insurance providers will continue their work to fight racism and improve health equity.

More Health Equity Resources:

Working Together to Improve Health Equity

Health Insurance Providers Are Innovating to Address Socioeconomic Needs during COVID-19 and Beyond

COVID-19’s Disproportionate Impact on Minority Communities

COVID-19 and Beyond: Addressing Vaccine Equity