Florida Blue: Corporate Feature of the Month

August 03, 2020

By Victoria Wellons

Penny Shaffer “Florida Blue is proud of our deep and longstanding partnership with the University of Miami and Miami Herbert Business School, and of our support from the start for the Business of Health Care Conference,” says Market President Penny Shaffer.  “Our organizations share a passion and commitment to exploring the important relationship between health and business and how it impacts all our lives.”

Florida Blue is Florida’s leading health insurer, more than 75 years old. The company stands by its mission of “Helping people and communities achieve better health.” Florida Blue has partnered with Miami Herbert Business School over the past decade with the common goal of educating others on health care as a global issue. Since the beginning of the Miami Herbert Corporate Associates Program in 2017, Florida Blue has retained Platinum Associate Status.

This article features a Q&A with Florida Blue’s Senior Director of Business Development and External Relations, Doug Bartel MBA’12. By way of a teleconference, I was able to ask him how Florida Blue is responding to the current public health crisis. We also discussed the exciting opportunities that the partnership with Miami Herbert Business School has provided over the years. 

Can you expand on Florida Blue’s mission to help people and communities achieve better health?

Our mission drives all we do, and it compels us to focus on innovation and collaboration. We are committed not only to our members, but also to the local community.  Connecting more people to affordable and quality health care improves their well-being and health care for us all.  Florida Blue is member-owned, not publicly traded, so our company is uniquely focused on health care affordability and access.  It is one of many reasons we invest in leading local organizations such as UM, United Way, Feeding South Florida and many others.

Florida Blue has been the Presenting Sponsor for the Business of Health Care Conferences since the start, what makes this initiative of importance for you and Florida Blue?

Nine years ago, I proudly joined Florida Blue’s Market President Penny Shaffer for a conversation with UM leadership about the university hosting a global health conference at the intersection of health care and business. Since then the backdrop to every conference is always – “How does business drive health care, and how does health care drive business?”

The conference focuses on local, national and international issues in health care, and attracts top leaders from all over the world. Our CEO, Pat Geraghty attends this conference every year, to speak and to moderate one of its remarkable panels. The insightful questions students ask are very impressive and demonstrate the high-quality education they are receiving at the University of Miami.

We value this conference for its deep impact and wide reach, and its ability to connect the top issues and people. This conference brings international health leaders to our international city and to this international university, where we can explore real solutions to global issues.

How has the partnership of Florida Blue and Miami Herbert Business School grown over the years, any success stories that come to mind?

The University of Miami understands the critical importance of health care leadership. When our partnership first began, Donna Shalala was President of the University. Before that she was Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration. Her successor, UM President Julio Frenk, has served previously as Mexico’s Secretary of Health. The Health Management Policy (HMP) department within the Miami Herbert Business School, is led by the incomparable Dr. Steven Ullmann. We have watched the department grow and attract remarkable professors and students.  Penny Shaffer, Market President for Florida Blue, is a proud adjunct professor and Advisory Board Member for the HMP. The leadership, the programs, the department, the conference, and the University interests, is what has made Florida Blue so proud to be involved since the beginning.

Doug Bartel

“The University of Miami understands and shows how and why health care is critical to all our lives. I am so proud and so excited to have been part of the ground floor for this conference. I was born and raised in Miami and UM has always served and reflected the rich diversity of South Florida.” -Doug Bartel MBA’12, Senior Director of Business Development

 

What has been the most challenging obstacle Florida Blue has overcome due to the COVID-19 pandemic? How has Florida Blue responded to COVID-19 to remain successful?

One of the biggest obstacles is the uncertainty, and not knowing when this crisis will end. Florida Blue immediately stepped into action to support our employees, our members, hospitals and health care workers. In addition to helping Floridians access and navigate care, we are supporting food relief and providing free mental health counseling line for everyone.  Giving back is in our DNA, and it’s what we have done for more than 75 years. We’re focused on helping everyone get through this crisis, and to collaborating for a healthier tomorrow.

With medical offices closed when this public health crisis first began, people still needed to manage chronic conditions, speak to a doctor, and get their prescriptions. Florida Blue moved quickly to support technology and virtual health/telehealth.  We partnered locally with United Way, the Miami Marlins, Feeding South Florida, schools and other agencies to help provide meals to those who needed them. For the elderly and those isolating at home, Florida Blue Center social workers have made phone calls to check in on seniors. Our community specialists and nurses are helping those who have underlying health issues, patients with cancelled surgeries, those who’ve lost their jobs and finding solutions for anyone who has lost health insurance due to the pandemic.  Individuals have 60 days after losing a job and health benefits to apply for a new plan, and many qualify for a subsidy because of the recent change of income. Now is not the time to go without health coverage and, as the state’s leading insurance company, we are connecting them to plans at little or no cost. We are also providing resources, not just to our members but to everyone, like virtual fitness classes. As always, the focus is about educating and helping the community.

“We have been doing this for 75 years, and supporting Florida is what we do. Giving back is in our DNA, now it is just in new and different ways.”
-Doug Bartel MBA’12, Senior Director of Business Development

 

How has Florida Blue stepped up to combat racial injustice?

Florida Blue has pledged to tackle systematic racism in several ways. CEO Pat Geraghty believes the company cannot fulfill our mission without doing the urgent and necessary work around diversity, inclusion and health equity. The company has committed to invest $25 million over the next five years to support racial equity. That commitment coincides with the launch of the Florida Blue Equity Alliance, an initiative focused on addressing systemic racism and resulting health disparities for Black Americans. Both internally and externally, we are leading the courageous and difficult conversations that need to happen. We are examining the diversity of our workforce, which we have always done and have been proud of, with renewed understanding that there is always more work to be done. We are committing time, money and resources to leading this charge. 

Is Florida Blue currently hiring?

Yes, Florida Blue is hiring. In this tight economy we are more committed than ever to the future and to serving Floridians. There are many opportunities for full-time remote workers and seasonal workers. We are deeply focused on local recruiting across Florida, investing in positions to help serve and meet the needs of our state. We are Florida and we believe healthcare is local whether it is hiring or serving our neighbors.

What is your favorite part of being involved with Florida Blue?

Under normal circumstances, I enjoy being out and about in the community and working for a company that is mission based. Most recently, I am grateful to see the way we have responded to both COVID-19 and racial injustice. Taking care of our employees, members, and community with courage and compassion makes me even more proud. Whether it’s hurricanes, community tragedies or economic challenges, stepping up in difficult situations is something Florida Blue has always done -- even more so these last few months.

To learn more about Corporate Associates Program Click Here.

To learn more about Florida Blue Click Here.

The 2020 Business of Health Care Conference was postponed to October 30th. More information Click Here.  

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