Here we are, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic cost more than 500,000 lives nationally and 50,000 in California, and it upended our very way of life. In those 12 months, we have learned that not everyone was affected in the same way, especially when it comes to healthcare access, quality and outcomes.
To better understand how the pandemic has impacted people’s health care experiences, Blue Shield of California recently commissioned a Harris Poll of Californians and published the first installment of findings today. Our goal was to gauge Californians’ feelings about the healthcare system to help advance our programs and inform our policy positions. While Blue Shield serves 4.5 million members in a state of 40 million residents, our mission is to ensure all Californians have access to high-quality health care at an affordable price. The poll provides valuable insights to advance this vision.
We were pleased to see that a vast majority (80 %) of survey respondents said they have good, or at least somewhat good, quality health care. We believe this sentiment reflects the many strengths of the healthcare system in California:
- We have the most advanced research and technology innovations in the world.
- Our frontline workers give their all to save lives; we are so grateful for their incredible work.
- Our commitment to health equity is sincere at the local, state, and federal levels.
- We have the tools and the ability to gather information and leverage technology to help us understand the gaps so we can dismantle barriers to good health.
Health inequities persist
The poll findings also show that people of color, those with low incomes, and young adults were more likely to say they had a hard time accessing care. Clearly, we in the healthcare industry have much more work to do to make care more equitable.
At Blue Shield, we are working to ensure that every strategy, program, policy and process leads us to a more equitable health care system for all. Health Reimagined, our ambitious plan to transform health care, is grounded in health equity. That means we will fundamentally change how we operate to reduce health disparities for our members, as well as drive changes that promote health equity at the systemic level.
Here are some of the ways that we are advancing this work by:
- Using data to inform our decisions and identify barriers to equitable care.
- Building on advances in telehealth and virtual visits to make health care more accessible.
- Bringing services – both health care and social services - closer to the underserved through technology and community health advocates.
- Expanding access to mental and behavioral health care.
- Engaging with diverse stakeholders and organizations to create systemic solutions to adjust structural barriers to care.
- Empowering and inspiring our employees to be a force for change.
- Building on the strengths of our Foundation and signature BlueSky program and make additional strategic community investments to build and scale the most promising solutions.
Advancing health equity is not new at Blue Shield, but we’re acting with greater urgency and will remain persistent in our commitment as we drive toward meaningful change. Looking ahead, we will continue to deliver access to top-quality care to those who feel the system is already working for them, while simultaneously making the system better for communities of color, low-income earners, and vulnerable populations.
I invite you to learn more about Health Reimagined, Blue Shield of California’s ambitious plan to transform the healthcare system at www.blueshieldca.com/healthreimagined.
Peter Long, PhD, is senior vice president and chief health transformation and affordability officer at Blue Shield of California.