And we thought 2020 was unbelievable.
The year 2021 was the sequel no one could have predicted. Across the nation, the year began with a surge of COVID-19 cases, then vaccines — then variants. Some things returned to near normal, such as kids going to school and fans returning to sports venues. While new things emerged that may never be the same again: everyone went with masks.
At Blue Shield of California, we forged ahead in our efforts to reimagine health care. We ramped up our community investments, our innovation initiatives, and most of all, delivered quality, affordable care to our growing ranks of members. We did it all while also taking on a massive effort to help ensure all Californians were vaccinated against the coronavirus. It was a mission that spanned nearly six months, aimed at curbing a pandemic that has claimed the lives of roughly 80,000 Californian since the outbreak in early 2020.
Here are the biggest stories of 2021:
As the virus surged and vaccines became available, the state of California asked Blue Shield to take a leadership role in distributing the vaccine. Prior to Blue Shield’s efforts, distribution was uneven across the state. Leveraging our expertise, the state quickly made strides in getting needles in arms – especially among the most hard-to-reach populations. By the time Blue Shield moved to an advisory role, more than 43 million doses had been administered to nearly 74% of the eligible population. At one point, roughly 400,000 doses were being given a day.
- California Enhances Vaccine Equity with New Initiatives, Local Funding
- California Launches $116.5 Million COVID-19 Vaccination Incentive Program
- California Leads Nation in Vaccinations. Here's Why
- Heart of San Joaquin Valley Defines Vaccination Successes for Communities Disproportionately Impacted by COVID-19
- Read more stories about our work with the state.
A surge of unprovoked attacks against Asian Americans early in the year rattled the nation. Blue Shield executives, including President and CEO Paul Markovich, denounced the attacks and pledged financial support to groups advocating for the community.
"Our company has a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we stand against racism in all forms," Markovich wrote.
- See more News Center stories featuring Paul Markovich here.
Our ongoing support of the Blue Shield of California Foundation produced measurable success in bringing health care to the underserved, especially when it comes to the foundation’s mission of preventing domestic violence. The foundation also supports research into systemic problems that keep healthcare-starved communities trailing the rest of the state. This story about political redistricting found that the process of setting boundaries enhanced those disparities.
- Read more stories about our support of the foundation and its work here.
Dr. Susan Fleischman, Blue Shield’s chief medical officer, continually swatted down misinformation and confusion as the COVID-19 story shifted.
- You can read her counsel on the pandemic and more here.
The headline from Sept. 20 says it all. Williams also starred in our new awareness campaign, “Hear Me,” launched the same month. Look for more of Blue Shield’s work with Venus Williams in 2022.
We’re constantly announcing new innovations. Arguably our biggest in 2021 was our partnership with Google Cloud, which aimed to bring real-time reimbursement information to providers – a move that helps take the sticker shock out of the member experience.
- Read more about our innovation in 2021 here.
2021 also marked a first for Blue Shield: a statewide poll to better understand how Californians were coping with the coronavirus, how it affected their quality of care, their fears about the future and what they thought about accessibility of care in the state. Working with Harris Poll, we took a deep dive to see how race, gender, age and income impacted perceptions of care.