Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (“Blue Cross”) has announced a significant milestone in its commitment towards ensuring equitable, high-quality and affordable care. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is the first non-profit health plan to establish a financial payment model that rewards health systems and doctors for eliminating racial or ethnic inequalities in care. This will help improve health care for the 2.9 million Blue Cross members.
The agreements, which link financial incentives with improvements in health equity, have been signed by four of the state’s most important health care systems: Steward Healthcare Network (“Steward”), Beth Israel Lahey Health (“BILH”), Mass General Brigham, and Boston Accountable Care Organization, Inc. (“BACO”), which is part Boston Medical Center. These systems together provide care for more than 550,000 Blue Cross members.
New contracts will focus initially on rewarding and measuring equity in care in clinical areas where there are inequalities, such as colorectal and blood pressure control, and care for diabetics. As the payment model develops, additional categories will be added.
Blue Cross’s efforts to improve health equity will be evaluated by the Center for Healthcare Organization and Innovation Research at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. This evaluation will use qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate and publish the results.
Steward Health Care Network
Steward Health Care Network is the physician network for the Massachusetts 10 hospitals that are part the Steward Health Care System. Steward Health Care is one of the largest accountable care organizations in the country and focuses on addressing racial disparities. It specializes in colorectal cancer screenings, high blood pressure control, and other areas.
Beth Israel Lahey Health
Beth Israel Lahey Health has more than 1,000,000 patients who rely on its hospitals, primary and specialty care as well as behavioral and community services. BILH’s partnership with Blue Cross aims to address racial disparities by first addressing two priority areas, comprehensive diabetes care and high blood pressure control.
Mass General Brigham
Mass General Brigham offers integrated academic health care. It includes two academic medical centers, specialty hospitals, community and specialist hospitals, as well as a health insurance plan, physician network, community health centers and home care. Mass General Brigham created the United Against Racism initiative two years ago. This program laid out a strategy to address the many effects of racism within the organization as well as in the community. These efforts are organized around patient care, community and workforce equity. They are supported by a multimillion-dollar investment.
Boston Accountable Care Organization, Inc.
BACO, which is made up of 19 providers organizations, is part of Boston Medical Center. It includes a mixture of community hospitals, academic medical centers and community health centers throughout Greater Boston, Western Massachusetts, and Southern Massachusetts. More than 111,000 people are served by BACO primary care locations, many of whom live in rural areas. BACO’s agreement with Blue Cross will allow it to focus its initial efforts on controlling high blood pressure and colorectal cancer screenings.
Blue Cross is committed to equity in health
Blue Cross collects data annually for over 1.2 million members in Massachusetts each year to fulfill its promise to be a leader in addressing health inequality. These data have revealed inequalities in patient care across many areas. The health plan works in partnership with its network of clinicians to use its data to effect meaningful change and achieve the common goal of eliminating racial disparities within the care Blue Cross members receive.
Blue Cross provided $25 million in Institute for Healthcare Improvement grants for physician practices and hospitals to help them eliminate racial inequalities in healthcare and to share their learning across institutions.
There are also other complementary initiatives to achieve health equity:
— Blue Cross Health Justice Partnership & Grant awards seven organizations to support the company’s mission to ensure that all Massachusetts residents live healthy lives and create more equitable and just communities. This grant provides $35,000 in general support, up to $20,000 pro bono support each year, and a total of $110,000 in financial support over two years.
— The Racial Justice In Health Grants of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation support grassroots community organizations that are led by people of colour and dedicated to eliminating institutional and structural racism in healthcare.