BCBS of Minnesota's 3-pronged COVID-19 strategy: Today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow

For Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota CEO Craig Samitt, MD, a pandemic didn't come to mind as a disruptor that would usher in changes like new prior authorization processes and telemedicine to the healthcare industry.

"I suspected for quite some time that there was going to be a shock to our system that would drive us forward as an industry and become contemporary and really be a reinventing force for us," Dr. Samitt told Becker's. Unsustainability and outside innovators were on his short list of possible forces, but not an event like COVID-19.

But the crisis may have unintended positive consequences in the long run, Dr. Samitt said. As BCBS of Minnesota navigates the pandemic's immediate and long-term effects, the insurer has broken down its response into three phases: today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. The insurer's priorities are detailed below, but not limited to the items listed. 

Today

Today involves managing the immediate risk COVID-19 brings to plan members and employees, Dr. Samitt said. Priorities include: 

  • Minimize the spread of COVID-19
  • Cover members' costs for COVID-19 testing and treatment 
  • Remove bureaucracy between payers and providers
  • Revamp prior authorization processes
  • Eliminate barriers to telehealth
  • Coordinate care for chronically ill members
  • Keep social determinants of health top of mind

Tomorrow

The tomorrow phase considers the immediate after-effects of COVID-19. According to Dr. Samitt, BCBS of Minnesota's priorities include:

  • Help providers get payments that would come later in the year
  • Prepare for new surges of COVID-19 
  • Create more at-home care opportunities for members with chronic diseases 
  • Ensure when elective procedures open, patients can see their providers quickly
  • Reliable immunity testing for caregivers 
  • Safely bring remote BCBS of Minnesota employees back on-site 
  • Consider if more employees, up to 40 percent of the workforce (or 1,600 employees), can work remotely in the future

The day after tomorrow

The day after tomorrow phase considers what the pandemic could mean for the underlying fabric of the U.S. healthcare system, and what changes could be made as a result of the weaknesses exposed by COVID-19. Dr. Samitt said priorities include: 

  • Consider what new expectations members will have
  • Build public and private partnerships to expand coverage universally
  • Transition to relations that hold payers and providers accountable
  • Reinvent care delivery model to focus on population health
  • Recognize new models may be in the home, community and cloud
  • Recognize healthcare companies need to be social companies, too

"If there's any silver lining, it would be my hope that this crisis leads to a fundamental reinvention of the healthcare industry," Dr. Samitt said. "In the coming years, if we see healthcare premiums rise, or we see ongoing inequities, or we don't coordinate the care and coverage components of the industry better, or underinsurance or uninsurance worsen, then we won't have learned what we need to from the crisis."

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