We're investing in making health care better for all
Inequities in health care result in social, economic and health disparities for marginalized communities
Blue Cross NC is investing in three statewide initiatives, including two requests for proposals (RFPs) to reduce these inequities across the state. We're supporting nonprofit organizations and health entities that are improving health outcomes for Black, Hispanic, American Indian, rural and other historically underserved and marginalized communities. And we're focusing on three areas that can significantly impact in overall health.
Behavioral Health RFP
Behavioral health can affect the total health of a person. But one in five adults will experience a behavioral health disorder within a given year and they may not have access to adequate mental health care1.
We're investing in organizations across the state, especially in rural and underserved communities, that ensure access to behavioral health care and resources.
Maternal and Infant Health RFP
Black, Hispanic and American Indian pregnant and birthing people are more likely to have adverse or fatal outcomes during and after pregnancy, and their babies are up to 2.4 times more likely to die before age one. 1,2
We're investing in organizations that are working to improve health outcomes, and they could do that in a number of ways - like by increasing access to pregnancy and postpartum care and education.
The organizations working within our historically marginalized communities understand those community's needs the most. And they should be empowered to choose how funding is used to expand their capacity to serve.
We're intentionally investing in these organizations led by and serving people of color to align them with the resources they need to be able to focus on the greatest needs of their communities.
Important DEI Updates Affecting Our Members
“We believe having policies that support our members living fully as their authentic selves leads to happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives. This truly is whole-person care.”
- Pam Diggs, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
We are expanding coverage for treatments related to gender affirmation on eligible plans
Effective July 1, 2021, our corporate medical policy on gender affirmation surgery and hormone therapy expanded to include treatments that are medically necessary as part of an overall treatment plan for gender dysphoria, including:
- facial surgery
- genital and chest procedures
- tracheal shave
- voice lessons
Our medical policy follows the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care. WPATH standards point out that these treatments can have a much greater impact on a transgender person’s daily life than other gender-affirming surgeries.
Blue Cross NC has long recognized gender dysphoria as a serious medical condition. Since 2011, we’ve covered gender affirmation and hormone therapy for members 18 and older diagnosed with gender dysphoria who have met diagnostic indications for care.
How do I know if my plan is eligible?
All standard Blue Cross NC plans cover gender affirmation related surgeries. But some group plans may choose not to cover these services.
Administrative Services Only (ASO) groups (of 250+) have the option to customize their plans and can choose to include or exclude some services. This opt-out applies to all gender affirmation surgeries - even those covered on our standard plans.
Groups can’t choose to cover some gender affirmation services and not others. They must cover all services related to our medical policy. You can see our medical policy here.
If you’re on a group plan, you can log into Blue Connect to see what plan type you have and check your benefits.
"Health inequities are a threat to all of us, regardless of race or ethnicity. We're committed to finding solutions, but we can't do it alone. It’s important for the health care and business communities across our state to also take steps to find and implement solutions."
Dr. John Lumpkin, MD, MPH, VP Drivers of Health Strategy
We don't practice equity and inclusion for the recognition. We do it to:
- Promote a vibrant culture and workplace
- Attract the best talent
- Be actionable through philanthropy
- Build healthy communities, and
- Live our mission
"Our hope is that you see our accomplishments and are inspired to join our diversity journey."
Fara Palumbo, Chief People Officer
In 2019, we released an inaugural diversity report and we're developing a Diversity Scorecard to keep us accountable.
Driving Health Equity and Supporting Communities Across North Carolina
We've invested almost $13M in efforts to help North Carolinians who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 ($2M generously funded by the Blue Cross NC Foundation).
We're driving health equity and investing in communities
We contributed 100,000 masks to the 1M Mask Challenge created by Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas HealthCare System). Through this effort, 700,000+ masks were distributed to the most vulnerable populations, including Latino, African American, elderly and at-risk youth groups.
We donated 1,000,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to communities most impacted by COVID-19.
Your community is also ours. We're working to make North Carolina communities better. Community and Diversity Engagement at Blue Cross NC
We are developing audience-specific messaging to deliver the most impactful and relevant content for African-American and Latino audiences, especially relating to precautions for COVID-19 and our stand against racism. See an example campaign called, "3Ws," supporting the NC Department of Health and Human Services 3Ws: Wear, Wait, Wash.
We are developing the first Blue Cross NC Health Care Equity Index (HEI) framework with user-centered design thinking. We're working with member and provider focus groups, and other critical community and state-wide organizations to discuss how we can incorporate DEI efforts into the index and value transformation in health care delivery.
We are working with a data sciences firm to build a databank that helps identify gaps in health equity, map them and highlight opportunities for intervention. The data tracks how North Carolinians use preventive services, outpatient and telehealth services, maternal and neonatal outcomes, and inpatient admissions based on racial composition, socioeconomic status, and rural or urban residence by ZIP Code.
We are collaborating with the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force to support state-wide efforts to address health equity under the executive order of Governor Cooper.
Health Care Access
We are increasing access to health care in rural areas by collaborating with Caravan Health to expand Blue Premier to community and rural hospitals. Blue Premier is a new value-based model of care in which Blue Cross NC and the health systems will be jointly responsible for better health outcomes, exceptional patient experience and lower costs. Under value-based care, provider pay is based on quality of care, not on the quantity of procedures, tests and appointments performed. Read how this Accountable Care Organization brings health care to North Carolinians who don’t live near a hospital.
We are tracking racial disparities in health care. Our Pharmacy Quality Team recently surveyed tribal leaders across North Carolina. Our goal is to identify educational opportunities for tribal members and their health providers and to identify resources within our company that can address tribal community health care concerns.
Blue Cross NC has also invested more than $2M in organizations serving diverse communities:
NC School of Science and Math
2020 Sponsorship of Step up to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics combined) academic summer program, a virtual project-based learning camp for African-American, Latino and Native American students, rising to 9th and 10th grade, to explore STEM fields and careers.
March of Dimes
Breaking Through Bias in Maternity Care, a virtual course providing insights to doctors and health care professionals to help them recognize implicit bias in maternity care settings and provides content to providers caring for women before, during and after pregnancy.
Mental Health Treatment Initiative for Latino families that supports improved access to higher quality care, reduced disparities in rural health care, better engagement with rural providers, improved mental health outcomes and creating a model program in a pay-for-value-based environment.
The Blue Cross NC Foundation
The Blue Cross NC Foundation Board approved $10M in additional funding, starting July 1, 2020, to focus on racial equity and develop a deeper understanding of structural racism.
A healthy North Carolina is a place where everyone has a fair opportunity for good health. This belief guides our work each day and is the cornerstone of our commitment to the people and communities of our home state, whom we proudly invest in, partner with, and stand alongside.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is a private, charitable foundation established as an independent entity by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina in 2000.
Tackling Diversity in Our Communication
We're taking action for diversity in communication
We expanded our corporate panel policy to and commit to only participating in panel discussions (three or more people) that represent gender, racial and ethnic diversity.
We provided a new internal platform for our racially and ethnically diverse colleagues who may not have had a way to share their unique perspectives and experiences.
We are actively working with a variety of employees to receive ideas and discuss implementing their recommendations for employees, members and the communities we serve.
We are listening to diverse employee networks who serve as internal focus groups for our marketing teams and provide feedback on the images and language we use in external marketing campaigns.
Building Diversity into Our Recruitment and Hiring Process (including Suppliers and Vendors!)
To continue attracting top, diverse talent we're upgrading our compensation strategy.
We're taking action for diversity and inclusion in recruitment and hiring
Blue Cross NC has:
- Raised our minimum wage compensation to $16 / hour. To continue attracting top, diverse talent we focused on upgrading our compensation strategy.
- Employed an HBCU Volunteer Action Team and internal recruiters with a Diversity and Inclusion Recruiter Certification. They will develop a hiring strategy with candidates from historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and incorporate an unconscious bias primer into our interview process. Further, we will secure commitment from our leaders to use only diverse hiring teams when interviewing for open positions.
- Invested in early IT talent from the Durham Tech work-based learning program to hire students who vary in generational, gender and racial demographics for apprenticeships and internships. The program pairs a student in their last or next-to-last semester with a team in Blue Cross NC Information Technology for 16 weeks.
- Supported the IT Leadership and Diversity Development Experience Rotation (LADDER) mentorship program to nurture and develop a culturally fluent workplace. LADDER connects minority IT leaders and IT professionals who are early in their STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) careers. The program lasts for one year and is set up as a rotational experience.
- Updated our 2021 Holiday Schedule to recognize and celebrate different religious and cultural holidays. To better accommodate our diverse workforce, we're adding a floating holiday beyond the 10 holidays we officially observe – this is a day chosen by each employee that is meaningful and significant to them.
Supplier Diversity: We're taking action to ensure diversity among our vendors, too.
We're now asking potential vendors about their health equity approach and certification during the request for proposal and information process. We are increasing the diversity of our suppliers and doing an internal audit to fully understand where we are today and to find opportunities to grow. Our Healthcare Division requires that vendors in our networks share what they're doing to address health equity.
Diversity in Workplace Education
We're going beyond employees, to educate agents, producers and professional women in insurance.
We're taking action for diversity in education
Women in Insurance Initiative
Blue Cross NC has increased our insurance agent diversity through the Women in Insurance Initiative, encouraging and supporting women's education and professional development. We'll offer an online community where insurance industry women can connect and engage.
We have built sessions for agents and producers to discuss and engage on DEI into our annual Producer Summit for agents. In 2020, our featured speaker was Omar Johnson, Founder, OPUS United, and author of, "My Open Letter to White Corporate America."
*Gender identity and sexual orientation self-report planned for 2021
Growth and strength through understanding
Employee networks and affinity groups are an important way Blue Cross NC supports diverse perspectives. Our groups offer a unique way for us to tap into and understand the population of each group.
When you join an employee network, you'll be able to influence the culture of Blue Cross NC and be a voice for the concerns and viewpoints of each group. Our senior leaders get a unique perspective on company projects, policies and goals from each network.
Our employee networks give us valuable insight into untapped market opportunities, enhance and strengthen the skills and talents of our workforce, and encourage partnerships between departments.
Diversity thrives at Blue Cross NC
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion fuels employee engagement and innovation. All of us at Blue Cross NC are working to make health care better for all, and our focus on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion helps us do that.
At Blue Cross NC, our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is embedded in our culture.
We put people first and believe that maintaining a workplace free of discrimination and harassment is a primary responsibility for everyone. Adhering to Equal Employment Opportunity principles enables our company to fully maximize the talents of all employees.
Are you ready to take action?
There are many ways you can, but we can give you 3 great ways to start:
Join the 21-Day Equity Challenge!
Data shows that by engaging in racial equity education daily for 21 days, more people could form lasting anti-racist behaviors and habits. By better understanding how racism is embedded in our lives we are all better positioned to see how it can be removed. We've gotten great feedback about the racial equity training required of our managers and people leaders. In 2021, this training will be required for all employees.
Our DEI resources are available to everyone. Try the 21-Day Challenge, then share it with your family and friends.
Create Your Own Inclusion Challenge
Our diversity journey is now focused on inclusion. Inclusive behaviors translate the creativity that comes from engaging our diversity into innovative solutions and ideas. Inclusion promotes the engagement, collaboration and innovation necessary for us to deliver on our mission. We created activities that encouraged self-reflection and discovery, accountability, increased curiosity in the experience of co-workers, and an increased employee commitment to support inclusion. Check out our 2019 Inclusion Challenge report then use it as a starting point to create your own challenge.