As COVID-19 began to spread, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois lived out our mission of standing with our members and communities in sickness and in health. We focused our efforts on helping the helpers — organizations on the front lines in local communities providing access to critical resources when they are needed most.
Hope was one of 75 organizations that received a $20,000 grant from the BCBSIL COVID-19 Community Collaboration Fund. The grants were given to organizations working to ensure access to health care, food and shelter during the pandemic.
Hope used the money to upgrade its video conferencing platform and to provide resources to parents and family members so they could continue therapy at home.
To help protect nurses, doctors and other medical staff on the front lines of clinical pandemic response, BCBSIL donated 150,000 KN95 masks that were then distributed to hospitals by the Illinois Emergency Management Association.
BCBSIL employees also became helpers during the pandemic, including Anthony Frieson, a developer for BCBSIL whose sister Patricia Frieson was the first Illinois resident known to have died from COVID-19. Two weeks later, his sister Wanda Bailey died from the virus, too.
Anthony joined groups of BCBSIL volunteers who distributed 100,000 masks throughout the Chicagoland area through the Wash & Wear Community Mask Project, held in partnership with Medline Industries, Inc., and YMCA of Metro Chicago.
BCBSIL also took steps to directly aid our members and employers during the COVID-19 crisis. We expanded access to telehealth, waiving cost-sharing for members who saw in-network providers for medically necessary services, including for behavioral health. Fully insured employer customers received $107 million in premium relief.
100,000 reusable masks distributed through the Wash & Wear Community Mask Project
KN95 masks donated
to Illinois hospitals
$3 million distributed
to local organizations for
Each year, BCBSIL makes strategic investments to serve as a force multiplier in the communities where our members live, work and play.
In 2020, BCBSIL transformed an abandoned retail store in Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood into a 130,000 square-foot employee workspace and community-facing Blue Door Neighborhood CenterSM. The multipurpose center opened in August.
The site will house up to 550 employees that support members and network providers. Roughly 70% of new hires live within 10 miles of the center. The building’s Blue Door Neighborhood Center is a place for community members to connect with each other and focus on their whole-person health — including physical, mental, environmental and social factors that impact well-being.
— Lori E. Lightfoot, mayor of Chicago
In September, BCBSIL broke ground on its third Blue Door Neighborhood Center, this one in South Lawndale’s Little Village community on Chicago’s West Side. The groundbreaking featured a “Welcome to Fall Fest” to introduce community residents to what the center would offer. “The Blue Door Neighborhood Center will be an incredible asset and given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our community, this could not be timelier,” said Luis Gutierrez, founder and CEO, Latinos Progresando, a nonprofit organization in South Lawndale.
The South Lawndale BDNC opened with virtual services in January 2021.
— Harmony Harrington, vice president of government, communications and community engagement, BCBSIL
We go directly into communities to improve access to care. Our two Care Vans® celebrated their 30th year on the road by traveling throughout the state providing immunizations, COVID-19 testing and other services. The program provided 14,333 no-cost immunizations in 2020.
To further the effort of the BCBSIL Care Van Immunization Initiative, BCBSIL provided grants to 12 organizations with existing programs providing vaccines to people whether or not they have health insurance. Recipients could use the grant money to maximize the reach of those programs by doing things like hiring additional clinicians, purchasing more vaccines to distribute, or raise program awareness in the communities they serve.
BCBSIL employees also gave their own time and money to support their neighbors. The 2020 BCBSIL Volunteer of the Year, Dominique Bryant, committed nearly 285 hours of her time in 2020 volunteering for several organizations in the Chicagoland area. One of her main commitments is to the Dream Academy Foundation, a mentoring organization she founded for people ages 10-18. The organization held more than 20 events and impacted 1,000 young people in 2020.
“There are many people in less fortunate situations, and I believe that whatever I can do, whether it be big or small, it will help to make this world a better place,” Bryant said.
Received the Champion for Community Impact Award from Skills for Chicagoland’s Future
2 Care Vans
Social unrest and COVID-19 laid bare the existing inequities in our health care system in 2020, as we witnessed Latino and Black Chicagoans stand up for their rights while suffering higher death rates than their white neighbors.
BCBSIL used our unique position within the system to partner with providers to combat social factors that impact health.
— Salma Khaleq, vice president of provider strategy and partnerships, BCBSIL
The Health Equity Hospital Quality Incentive Pilot Program supports hospitals serving the highest concentrations of BCBSIL members who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19. Post-pandemic, the program will work to elevate a focus on health equity and reducing racial and ethnic disparities in care.
The program supplements or replaces existing bonus programs to collectively provide roughly $100 million in funding to participating hospitals that demonstrate a commitment to pursuing health equity and reducing health disparities over the next three years.
“We cannot achieve our mission without acknowledging and addressing the barriers to care created by systemic racism and other forms of discrimination inherent in our culture and communities," said Edgar Curtis, president and CEO of Memorial Health System in Springfield. "We are pleased that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois also has committed to supporting providers in our work to eliminate these disparities.”
The BCBSIL Institute for Physician Diversity launched in October, bringing together a health plan, academic medical centers, teaching hospitals and nonprofits to work toward a goal of having the physician workforce represent the racial and ethnic diversity of the state.
Members of the pilot program are working to accelerate the recruitment of medical students, residents and clinical faculty who are underrepresented in medicine.
“We have an obligation as a health insurer to help accelerate the efforts of our medical education community to address this structural disparity,” said BCBSIL Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Derek J. Robinson.
BCBSIL is committed to the values of diversity, equity and inclusion, and we know the positive impact a diverse workforce can have on our customers, our communities and our company.
Our approach to diversity and inclusion engages leaders to ensure there is alignment at an executive level. The Executive D&I Council, made up of nine senior leaders from across the business, meets quarterly to promote an increased awareness of, and a shared commitment to, a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Recruiting diverse talent
BCBSIL prioritizes building a talent pipeline for the future and aims to recruit top diverse candidates. In 2020, we held an in-person, socially distanced job fair at the new Blue Door Solution Center in Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood.
Our hiring efforts are reflected in our employee demographics:
Our employee-led business resource groups (BRGs) are there to support, empower and connect employees to the business, the community and one another.
The In-Abled BRG — focused on disability awareness and inclusion — stayed connected and supported each other during remote work in 2020 by hosting regular virtual “caregiver support” meetings to provide employees an outlet to share information, give feedback and stay connected during an uncertain time.
In-Abled is one of eight active BRGs:
We prioritize sustainability because our environment affects our health and well-being.
Boosting biodiversity is one small way that BCBSIL has a positive influence. About 20,000 honeybees have called the roof of our Chicago headquarters home since 2019. By giving two hives a safe environment to live in, BCBSIL is boosting the city’s bee population and improving the pollination of local flowers and crops.
Our headquarters building in Chicago is designed to be eco-friendly for a long-term positive effect on our environment. It is Fitwel certified, meaning the building supports a healthier workplace environment to improve occupant health and productivity, and has a green roof to reduce stormwater runoff and urban heat island effect.
We are also committed to the highest standards of business ethics and integrity, and employees and vendors must agree to follow codes of ethics and conduct. These efforts contributed Ethisphere naming the company that operates BCBSIL a World’s Most Ethical Company for the fifth straight year in 2020.
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