BCBSA's Ongoing Commitment to Equity and Affordability

Published July 7, 2023

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) is dedicated to improving equity and affordability in health care—the two most important challenges Americans face when it comes to their health. We understand that rising costs and inequitable access pose significant—at times impossible—burdens on individuals and families across the United States.

And we are committed to building a better system of health that works for all Americans.

Addressing the Youth Mental Health Crisis

Youth mental health is a top priority for both the nation and the Blues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that over 37% of high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, and 44% reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless. Behind these numbers are real people—kids and their families—who are suffering.

The Blues are taking action, including our recent announcement of an impactful partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to ensure that 48,000 staff at 5,000 Clubs are trauma-informed over the next four years. Together, we will help Boys and Girls Clubs team members identify and understand the impact of traumatic experiences on children and provide pathways to healing. This important collaboration has the potential to impact the emotional and mental well-being of 3.6 million kids and builds on over 250 programs BCBS companies already have in place in urban and rural communities in every state.

For example, in response to the sharp rise in adolescent suicidality over the past decade, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Anthem) developed a mental health wellness program to identify at-risk members and intervene. Using predictive analytics, this approach examines health insurance claims for hundreds of potential suicide risk factors. Those with the highest risk then receive education and support from Anthem’s clinical team, connection to resources, and the opportunity to connect meaningfully with another human—like behavioral health case managers, peer recovery specialists or people with lived crisis experience. To date, the program has seen an approximate 50% reduction in suicide attempts.

Advancing Maternal Health Equity

BCBSA remains committed to advancing maternal health equity, and we continue to work with policymakers, health systems and community partners to address the underlying factors that contribute to maternal health disparities.

In Philadelphia, for example, Independence Blue Cross has partnered with Cayaba Care, which uses community-based maternity navigators to support prenatal and postpartum moms at home, between OB visits. These navigators can identify needs a doctor doesn’t typically address, such as groceries, transportation to appointments, help navigating the health care system or even emotional support.

We invite payors, providers, industry leaders and decision makers to join our National Health Equity Strategy and adopt our 10 maternal health equity actions to help reverse maternal health disparities.

Driving Affordability Solutions

Health care costs continue to grow at unsustainable rates and are creating a significant barrier for people to access care. In 2022, nearly 4 in 10 Americans said they put off care because of cost. This impact is devastating. We must tackle the root causes of these price hikes and implement solutions to ensure health care is affordable for everyone.

The Blues are committed to addressing the underlying costs of care. We’ve proposed Affordability Solutions for the Health of America that would reduce health care costs in the U.S. by $767 billion over ten years:

  • Everyone should have access to safe, effective medicines when they need it and at a price they can afford. We’re working with industry partners and policymakers to bring more affordable and just as effective generic and biosimilar drugs to patients more quickly, enhance transparency and end drug companies’ ability to block these lower-cost alternatives from coming to market. For example, we are founding partners of CivicaScript, which will manufacture generics and biosimilars—including insulin—at cost, saving Americans an estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
  • A fee-for-service system encourages providers to perform more health care services, often without better outcomes. We are partnering with providers to change the way health care is delivered, the way it’s paid for and the way it’s experienced, so people get healthier faster and stay healthier longer. Today, nearly 70% of BCBS members have access to more than 619,000 providers that participate in programs dedicated to providing coordinated, preventative care, resulting in 9.4% fewer ER visits and 13% fewer ER visits for non-emergent care.
  • Greater competition and fair billing practices in health care delivery will help ensure patients receive high-quality care for lower, more equitable costs. We’re working with Congress to enact policies that promote fair and transparent billing practices to protect patients from being overcharged for a medical service in a hospital when that same service would cost 2-3X less in a different setting. Adopting policies that pay for the service provided, not the service based on the site of care, would nearly $500B over 10 years.

To make health care affordable, no one person or group can do it alone. We will need to work together across industries to address the root causes of rising health care costs and make health care affordable.

Creating a Better System of Health

Each initiative to address youth mental health, maternal health disparities and affordability builds upon one another and brings us closer to a better system of health. Each action contributes to the momentum needed to create lasting, meaningful change.

Each of us can support this work—and together we can build a future where more equitable, accessible, affordable health care is a reality.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is an association of independently owned and operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. Read more about how BCBS companies are promoting affordable health care.