BCBSM Progressing in Work to Reduce Maternal Health Disparities

Jake Newby

| 4 min read

Black, Latina and Asian women are all likelier to experience pregnancy and childbirth complications than white women. Regardless of age or insurance type, rates of severe maternal morbidity (SMM) are consistently higher among Black, Latina and Asian women compared to white women, as are the prevalence of delivery complications.
To help reverse these outcomes, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) launched its national health equity strategy with a goal to decrease racial disparities in maternal health by 50% in five years. On the heels of that announcement, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) formed the Maternal Health Disparities Workgroup, which outlines initiatives and strategies designed to reduce maternal health disparities among Michigan families. 

BCBSM initiatives launched since June 2021

BCBSM’s multi-year strategy includes a focus on:
  • SMM (including conditions such as high blood pressure and pulmonary embolism)
  • Prenatal and postpartum care
  • Postpartum depression screening
  • Providing information and education about the pregnancy journey and insurance coverage
“The strategy we have put in place systemically addresses maternal health disparities and strengthens community partnerships and investments to align with BCBSA’s direction,” said Bridget Hurd, in February 2023. Hurd is the Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Inclusion and Diversity at BCBSM and is the lead of the Office of Health and Health Care Disparities. 
The 2022 development and launch of the following multi-faceted maternal health strategy is designed to provide comfort, direction and resources to members who are starting families. The initiative strives to improve clinical outcomes for mothers and babies through these specific platforms and campaigns:
  • Completed data collection and data analysis for SMM prenatal and postpartum care and postpartum depression screening: This was done to identify disparities among members to understand any health or health care disparities, and to identify and implement interventions to address and reduce these disparities.
  • The Maven Clinic app: BCBSM agreed to a Health Plan Business contract with Maven Clinic to offer members a comprehensive and personalized digital care navigation app that guides members through every step of the family-building journey, delivers one-on-one support from a dedicated Care Advocate​​​​​​​, and offers clinical-based articles related to prenatal health and postpartum depression. Plans are underway to expand the offering in 2023.
  • The creation of a Family Building microsite for members on bcbsm.com: This site aims to increase access to information and resources as members move through their family planning journey, health care coverage resources, and tips for every step of the pregnancy journey, including proper prenatal care and nutrition and postpartum-pediatrics. Visit bcbsm.com/familybuilding to see more.
  • Promotion of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Hear Her” campaign: On that new Family Building microsite, this campaign works to prevent pregnancy-related deaths. Hear Her is all about listening to pregnant and postpartum women if they experience concerns and helping them understand the urgent maternal warning signs so they know whether to seek medical attention right away. Here are the campaign’s four primary goals:
  1. Reduce the number of deaths related to pregnancy and delivery complications.
  2. Commit to healthy pregnancies and deliveries for all women.
  3. Improve communication between patients, their support systems, and health care providers.
  4. Empower women to speak up and raise their concerns.
  • The 2023 launch of an ongoing member engagement campaign: Members and their partners will receive proactive guidance with timely, useful, and personalized plan benefit and coverage support throughout their family building journey. The campaign also promotes Maven use to eligible members.
Other ongoing initiatives:
  • Adoption of gender-neutral terminology – such as “person who is pregnant” and “person going through the birth process” – in the BCBSM maternal health member communications.
  • Implementing an unconscious bias education requirement that is specific to maternal health.
  • Monitoring COVID-19 vaccination among persons who are pregnant.
  • Reviewing the role of midwives and exploring ways to increase awareness and utilization of midwives among members who have that coverage.
  • Strengthening community investments and partnerships to address social determinants of health.
  • Supporting the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Birthing Center Designation, which assists customers in choosing hospitals that demonstrate expertise and a commitment to high-quality maternity care.
“Robust maternal health is the backbone of child growth and development and is essential to creating a strong and safe community. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a national leader in identifying and reducing health and health care disparities,” said Dr. James Grant, senior vice president and chief medical officer. “We are focused on improving the ability of our members and all parents and families in Michigan to access quality care before, during and after pregnancy.”
For more maternal health guidance and tips, check out this content:
Photo credit: Getty Images

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