CEO: Working to Achieve Equitable Outcomes for Physical and Mental Health

Daniel J. Loepp

| 4 min read

Daniel J. Loepp is President and Chief Executive Officer of...

April is National Minority Health Month, an observance that is designed to build awareness about the importance of improving the health of racial and ethnic minority communities and reducing health disparities, according to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, we believe everyone should be able to access the care they need to have a healthy body and mind. However, we recognize that for too many people this means overcoming health and health care disparities — which are the differences in health outcomes or access to health care that often impact African American/Black, Hispanic and Latino and Native American communities.
Over the last 18 years, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has focused on an inclusion and diversity strategy that fulfills one of our key strategic objectives: advancing health equity.
Our work is making a difference — from helping reduce disparities in death rates from COVID-19 to helping a mother in need have a safe delivery, to addressing racial disparities in behavioral health care.

Addressing Inequities

Long before the pandemic spotlighted these inequities, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan focused on addressing health and health care disparities, including those related to social determinants of health. Nearly a decade ago, we established the Health Disparities Action Team to increase access to and the quality of affordable health care; and improve the health of Michigan’s citizens and communities.
In 2020, a rapid response was needed when African Americans in Michigan were dying at nearly twice the rate as white individuals from COVID-19. The state called on experts, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, to help develop strategies to combat racial health disparities. Earlier this year, the Michigan COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force reported that COVID-19 death rates for Black Michiganders dropped to that of whites.
We’ve built on that leadership by establishing the Office of Health and Health Care Disparities, which is focused on primary care access and quality, behavioral and maternal health, chronic disease management as well as health promotion and addressing related issues such as food insecurity. We’ve since delivered unconscious bias education to more than 5,000 physicians. The office has also targeted known disparities like colorectal cancer screenings, diabetes and maternal health care.

Maternal Health Disparities

Two years ago, we began executing a strategy in alignment with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) and other Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies across the country to reduce maternal health disparities, which can include variation in quality health care, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism and implicit bias. We have taken a leadership role in supporting the Association’s goal to help reduce these disparities by 50% in five years.
Recently we helped a woman deliver a healthy baby after a tragic history of miscarriages. She was scheduled to carry her baby until 37 weeks of pregnancy and then undergo a Cesarean section. However, during the pregnancy, she faced financial setbacks impacting her ability to afford medicine to prevent early labor.
By connecting her with resources, she received help with food, childcare and housing assistance and a pharmacist who coordinated with her OB-GYN office to ensure the medication was affordable. We also connected her with a nurse who provided education about going into labor safely.
Happily, preterm labor was avoided and there were no complications for the mom or baby.

Mental Health Equity

Another key part of health equity is ensuring everyone has access to mental health resources. Our mental well-being is closely connected to our physical health outcomes. Many diseases increase the risk of depression and anxiety. Untreated mental illness can raise the risk of developing a chronic health condition.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan collaborates with multiple nonprofit organizations to address racial disparities with access to mental health care. One pilot program offers grants and resources to help Black-led community-based organizations connect their clients and members to mental health resources.
Mental health issues can affect anyone at any time – and it’s important to know that it’s always okay to ask for help.
By removing barriers to equitable care, we can help ensure everyone has the opportunity for a healthier and happier life.
Daniel J. Loepp is president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Photo credit: Getty Images
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association