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Being Human, Honest and Courageous During Uncertain Times: Stories of Blue Shield of California’s Community Outreach Team

'Treating members and community like family is at the core of what we do'

Working from her makeshift home office in her guest room, Blue Shield of California’s Stacy Anderson just hung up her phone, helping yet another person who was worried about losing her health insurance coverage during these uncertain economic times fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and more recently, social unrest.

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In this case, the member had just signed up for health benefits through Covered California but was worried whether her $13-an-hour job would be enough to cover her premiums and living expenses. Anderson, a manager in Northern California for Blue Shield’s Individual and Family Plans community outreach team, carefully walked through the details of the member’s circumstance and realized she could qualify for subsidies with Covered California, or a Medi-Cal program. It was a welcome relief for the member.

This is just one of thousands of conversations that the community outreach team of just nine people have been having with more than 7,500 Californians across the state since March.

“Our thoughts remain with those who have been affected and we want to reassure our members that now, more than ever, our commitment to their health and safety is top priority,” said Anchulee Raongthum, senior manager of the outreach team, which in pre-COVID-19 times, were hitting the pavement engaging members and the local community in person.

However, adhering to the shelter-in-place mandate, her team pivoted their work from being physically in the community to being connected virtually and on the phones. Their living rooms, garages and kitchen tables were rearranged to respond to the needs of the members, customers and community, and this change has turned into new opportunities to lend caring voices to those anxious for the unknown, or even prayers for those in despair or confused

In some instances, the conversations are more than just health insurance. Anderson recalled one gentleman who shared he was still in shock over losing two members of his family to COVID-19, or another customer who felt “drained with the weight of holding everything together” for his family during this time.

“Treating members and community like family is at the core of what we do,” Anderson said. “They, too, have family or friends who have lost a job, seen work hours reduced, face health challenges, or may know someone who has contracted the coronavirus. Being honest is important in any relationship and they understand that we are all in this together.”