Chapter 1: Health Reimagined in the Midst of Pandemic
This month marks a grim anniversary – one year ago the World Health Organization confirmed that we were in a global pandemic with COVID-19. By the time the news was official, it was already clear the world was changing quickly. The past year has been an unforgettable mix of courage and tragedy, frustration, and unsettling change.
As our 2020 Mission Report shows, the efforts by our employees were amazing. They jumped into action to support our members, our providers, and indeed all Californians. Our response to fight the virus still dominates our company’s day-to-day activities, as we lean in to support access to lifesaving care.
And we did all this while taking swift and unprecedented action to move our employees to work from home and keep safe.
I am pleased to report that our commitment to our mission and our nonprofit status enabled us to do as much as we could – giving financial relief to members struggling to balance costs, to providers whose businesses were hurt by changes to the economy, and to community groups who were also coming to the aid of those afflicted.
While pursuing these important activities, our team managed to achieve our goals of improving our clinical quality scores, growing membership, enhancing our customer satisfaction scores, and maintaining our financial stability by trimming administrative expenses.
Living our values
The events of 2020 and early 2021 combined to provide a once-in-a-lifetime moment for the healthcare industry to bring about changes to the system – to respond to these challenges with action.
We are uniquely positioned to help improve access to healthcare and lower costs – and it gives me pride to show how we demonstrated that for the good of all Californians.
At the start of the pandemic, we joined the Governor’s public-private task force on testing. My colleagues and I jumped in to procure desperately needed testing supplies and helped establish new testing sites across the state. We exceeded our goals after three months, ramping up capacity to test more than 100,000 Californians per day by the end of June, up from 2,000 per day when we started in mid-March. Many of us worked seven days a week to get the equipment, people, and infrastructure in place to serve all communities in California.
We jumped in again in February 2021 to continue helping. We are supporting California’s efforts to deliver the vaccine. It’s a daunting challenge to vaccinate nearly 30 million adults—and do so fairly, equitably, and as fast as possible. We are providing our support to the state on an at-cost basis; as a nonprofit health plan we are not motivated by profits, but by advancing our mission to ensure all Californians have access to high-quality care at an affordable price.
The pandemic revealed the heroism of our front-line healthcare workers, first responders,essential workers,and our employees. But it has also shown the weaknesses and structural inequities that are features of the current system.
The virus hurt communities of color disproportionately hard – particularly Hispanics and Blacks—– and the disparities these Californians face in accessing care compounded the dangers of COVID-19. None of us should find this acceptable, and all healthcare leaders should take responsibility for transforming a system that generates such disparate outcomes.
New poll reveals Californians’ opinions on health care
A Harris poll of Californians commissioned published by our External Affairs team asked 1,000 state residents last month to tell us how they feel about healthcare today, after living through the worst health crisis our lifetimes. A strong majority, 80%, said they like their health care, but a large number (41%) said COVID-19 made it harder to get care and 40% said they put off treatment for non-COVID-19 issues.
The poll also revealed that quality of care for some groups got worse: One in five Californians (26%) say the quality of care they have received personally has worsened since the pandemic; 61% said there’s no change. Hispanics (32%), young adults, 18-34 years old (35%) and those making less than $50,000 annually (31%) said quality of care has become worse.
This is why change matters – these numbers are too big to ignore.
Blue Shield of California is building coalitions with other health plans, healthcare providers, policy makers, patient advocates, and community-based organizations throughout the state to make health equity a reality for everyone,
The future is now. We need to bring healthcare into the digital age today; we need to remove barriers to equitable care; and we need to approach our work differently so we can be efficient, effective and be closer to our colleagues.
I am optimistic about where we are heading. And I know our team is energized to bring about meaningful change for our members and all Californians. I was moved and inspired bythe inauguration poem by Amanda Gorman, who encouraged our nation to embrace change: “The new dawn blooms as we free it; for there is always light, if we are brave enough to see it…”