By Pat Stevens
Oldest Health Benefit Provider Committed to Improving Health Care
75 years ago Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) was created to ensure healthcare for lumber and mining workers in the Pacific Northwest and hospital coverage for teachers in Texas. Now providing care benefits to more than 94 million Americans, BCBS is the oldest and largest health insurance companies in the United States.
With plans in all 50 states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, the BCBS Association serves as the trade organization for the 38 independently run local BCBS health benefit groups that serve 1 in 3 Americans. Using their clout to create a national presence, BCBS offers numerous community programs that are dedicated to education, research and collaboration. Programs related to research and professional development includes the Foundation on Health Care and the Academy for Health Care Management. Those associated with public education consist of labor outreach through the National Labor Organization (NLO), an educational campaign, focusing on the issue of performance enhancing drugs, called Healthy Competition and the PBS television series Second Opinion.
BCBS Foundation on Health Care
The BCBS Foundation on Health Care, which is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit group, coordinates health service research amongst numerous organizations across the nation. The Foundation acts as a facilitator between government agencies, colleges and universities and health plans. It sponsors both the Health Services Research Advisory Council (HSRAC), composed of nationally recognized health care experts, and the Health Services Research Alliance (HSRA), whose participating institutions are located in 25 states.
The HSRAC helps to identify key areas of and provide guidance in multi-plan health services research, offers input regarding how changes in the accessibility and delivery of health care may impact individuals, groups and communities and gives assistance relating to the funding and development of potential studies.
Organizations within the HSRA work collaboratively through the BCBS Foundation to provide key studies that are population and evidence-based. The Foundation is dedicated to creating important partnerships between various institutions, expanding funding opportunities and strengthening its presence in the health insurance and health care community. The group disseminates information relating to health care conferences, promotes data based studies relating to medical issues and works to improve the quality of services and their delivery.
Academy for Healthcare Management
The academy was formed when the BCBS Association and the American Association of Health Plans and Health Insurance Association of America (AAHP-HIAA) joined forces to offer online educational opportunities for professionals interested in broadening their knowledge of the challenges, priorities and procedures connected to managed care operations. Participants are given the opportunity to utilize up-to-date management concepts in everyday, real world situations, learning via instant response and assessment.
Course materials, which are regularly modified, provide students with information, principles and problems designed to solidify basic knowledge and expand upon advanced concepts and practices as they relate to the healthcare industry. Upon completing coursework, along with earning Continuing Education credits, students can be designated as a Professional, Academy of Healthcare Management (PAHM) or Fellow, Academy of Healthcare Management (FAHM).
National Labor Office
BCBS created the NLO over forty years ago, and they continue to fund it today. The NLO is the arm for labor outreach, which focuses on keeping union members abreast of health care developments, strengthening ties to organized labor and providing quality programs and services to the over 20 million union members and their families.
Primarily, NLO acts as a liaison between BCBS and labor, providing educational materials, developing relationships between various organizations and offering important information. Pending legislation, new healthcare products, developing trends, managed care and bargaining strategies are all addressed by the NLO.
Along with communicating with unions, the NLO facilitates the exchange of information and discussion of issues between union officials and BCBS senior officers. Together, they work to address concerns specific to each union, including developing a healthier working environment, defining value-related healthcare and supplying health plan analysis, reporting and design.
The NLO communicates with unions via newsletters, the web and informational meetings as well as through its central office.
The Healthy Competition program was developed by BCBS in response to the increased use and popularity of performance enhancing drugs by both professional and amateur athletes. Healthy Competition encourages those involved in athletics to safeguard their health and the integrity of their sport by competing drug free.
The program offers information related to drug use, sports and good health. It delineates profiles of the three types of performance enhancing drugsstimulants, blood doping substances and anabolic steroids. Healthy Competition supports research and education and promotes public awareness through various initiatives.
PBS Second Opinion
BCBS provides sponsorship for the 2005-2006 season of Second Opinion, the PBS series that engages various medical professionals in discussion of actual medical cases. The program attempts to broaden the publics understanding of medical issues, choices and procedures encountered in our complex and ever changing world.
BCBS is the major health benefit provider in America. It has grown greatly since its initiation 75 years ago. However, through a commitment to professional and public education and betterment, it continues to focus on serving individual groups, as it did when it first started providing benefits to teachers, lumbermen and miners.
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