Last summer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan joined the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies across the nation in pledging to fight racial injustice in our society. The senseless killing of George Floyd in 2020 exposed how deeply flawed and hurt our communities are when it comes to racism in our country. We, along with our affiliate companies, pledged to make meaningful change in our communities and within our organizations. We were proud to stand with Mayor Mike Duggan, Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony and other Michigan corporate leaders to speak out against racism and injustices. “For several years, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has been working to address racial disparities in health care and advocate for inclusion and diversity in our workforce. Last summer, however, provided an opportunity for our organization – as well as others – to think deeply about what else can we do,” said Daniel J. Loepp, President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The pledges we made last year with our Blue Cross affiliates and leaders from Michigan have guided us. “As Michigan’s largest health insurer, we strive to lead by example by prioritizing inclusion and diversity throughout our company so that we can reflect and best serve our members, customers and communities,” Loepp said. “It’s important to bring awareness and place a spotlight on inequalities. However, we must also take action to deliver results that advance equity. “We are seeing progress and remain committed to building on this momentum.”
We are listening, learning and acting.
We are continuing to fund grassroots organizations and nonprofits across Michigan as they work to break down barriers for people to access health care resources and promote healthy lifestyles – particularly in communities where large racial and socioeconomic disparities exist in health outcomes. We have rolled out unconscious bias education training to providers to create awareness among physicians and office staff of the biases we all carry and how those biases can impact the delivery of health care. This program started with our Physician Group Incentive Program and will be expanded to more physicians and their staff throughout the next three years. It’s an important step to build cultural competency and address gaps in health care. Unconscious bias affects everyone. We’re providing leaders, individuals new to management roles and all employees with the tools and education they need to develop self-awareness about bias, learn how to speak up when they see bias and to mitigate situations, and to engage in ongoing dialogues on the impacts of unconscious bias in the workplace.
We are maintaining a forum for our associates to speak.
This year we’ve created more pathways for internal dialogue and learning about belonging, equality, identity and race. Through an Inclusion & Diversity Book Club, members build cultural competency among coworkers, share personal experiences and perspectives and build empathy for our peers at work and for the members we serve. We’ve also internally piloted an exchange program that matches executives with employees from all levels of the organization to learn about the differences and similarities in how we approach our work, our experiences in our hometowns and our social and cultural circles. Dialogue is encouraged through one-on-one meetings to share experiences and create understanding. In August 2021, under Daniel J. Loepp’s leadership, we announced that Juneteenth will be observed as a corporate holiday beginning in 2022. This decision reinforces other company activities during which diverse perspectives are appreciated, recognized, respected, and valued. Loepp has emphasized the importance of being educated about different cultures, communities, experiences, and perspectives, because it is essential in our commitment to inclusion and diversity.
We are making our voices and our actions known inside and outside the company.
Internally, we have continued to focus on diversity in the workplace but have placed a greater emphasis on inclusion. We also launched a new Office of Health and Health Care Disparities, focused on five areas. This office is building on the work Blue Cross started in 2016 and uses an interdisciplinary approach to address health equity. The office engages team members across Blue Cross to go deeper to understand and respond to disparities and implement systemic changes to address the needs of members to ultimately make a difference in communities.
We are part of the change we want to see.
We’re making sure our recruitment, hiring and retention practices at Blue Cross support our company’s values of inclusion and diversity. Working with our human resources department, we’re tracking how applicants of color and people with disabilities are moving through the hiring process, and are ensuring our divisions understand the diversity representation of their immediate workforce.
We will not let things ever go back to the way they were.
Blue Cross has served our members for 82 years, while the health and wellbeing of all Michiganders is our top priority – and we will remain staunch advocates for lasting change. More from MIBluesPerspectives:
- Institutional Bias and its Impacts on Health
- Going Beyond 'Do No Harm': Addressing Implicit Bias in Health Care
- Helping Providers Address Health Care Disparities in the LGBTQ+ Community
Photo credit: Getty Images