As the impact of George Floyd’s tragic death continues to reverberate around our state, nation and world, millions of people have banded together to call for greater awareness of racial injustice and push for substantial change. Minnesota’s nonprofit health plans are committed to being part of that effort, and I want to share the actions they’re taking to promote racial equity, diversity, inclusion and awareness.

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Our member health plans have long valued the diverse backgrounds of the communities they serve, and over the years they’ve launched various initiatives to address health equity issues and close gaps in care. They’ve worked to not only create diverse workforces within their organizations, they have also worked to address the cultural needs of their members and improve their access to care.

Already through our collaboration as a Council, health plans are collectively working on an ambitious goal of reducing health disparities by 50% by 2025. To get there, we know we need to do more. We have an obligation to ensure that we are meeting the needs of everyone we serve — and that all who engage with us feel valued and supported.

That’s why our mission is now shifting into high gear as health plans have made robust pledges to further advance racial justice within their organizations and in our communities. This includes commitments to conduct listening sessions in their workforces, forge new and stronger community partnerships, provide training on unconscious bias, and expand the work of their equity and inclusion teams.

For example:

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield Minnesota recently affirmed that racism is a public health crisis and dedicated a number of resources to promote social justice inside and outside its organization. The entire executive leadership will take various steps to accomplish this, including: fighting for the equitable health, well-being and safety of all Minnesotans; denouncing racism inside the organization and throughout the community, attending community events and discussions to better understand why systemic racism exists; continuing those conversations through its Associate Resource Groups, Health Equity Summit and upcoming “Safe Space Conversations” series; and continuing to rebuild damaged cities.
  • HealthPartners committed to a series of actions to address racism and injustice, including organization-wide listening sessions in which leaders share their own experiences and take questions; committing resources to community organizations that are helping Twin Cities neighborhoods rebuild; and making the efforts of its Diversity and Inclusion team more visible and impactful by created a central location on the company’s intranet to share resources. Employees also took part in a moment of silence and solidarity on June 4 at 3:15 p.m., the same day as George Floyd’s Minneapolis memorial service.
  • Medica recently announced that it is now hiring a Director of HR, Diversity and Inclusion to better engage the community and recruit talent. Additionally, the health plan is reaching out to organizations of color and those focused on issues of societal equity, and is enhancing the Medica Foundation’s focus on nonprofit organizations that address health issues disproportionately affecting diverse communities. Internally, the company is also hosting listening sessions to gauge employees’ thoughts and concerns; expanding efforts to diversify its staff and board; engaging its executive leadership team and board members in unconscious bias and cultural competency training; and rolling out a new unconscious bias class in August for all employees.
  • UCare has held a series of Listen and Share sessions with a professional facilitator versed in race relations; compiled and shared a resource list of educational books, websites, films, videos and podcasts with employees; committed to strategies focusing on health equity and inclusive employer practices; created a new position to lead its health equity work; and assisted displaced providers who serve diverse members. In the wake of the unrest, UCare also helped its employees and members in affected neighborhoods get access medications, urgent care and food.
  • Additionally, several of our Council member CEOs signed their names to a joint statement from more than 50 executive leaders across Minnesota condemning the repeated occurrence of racially charged events like George Floyd’s murder, and vowing to address racial inequities and social injustice in their organizations and communities.

We’re so proud of these efforts, but they’re also only the beginning. Our member health plans recognize that true success in addressing systemic racial inequity goes far beyond an initial push in the wake of a high-profile tragedy. The hard work involves listening and then doing. Blue Cross president and CEO Craig Samitt said it best in his recent blog post: “While collectively raising voices to condemn racism, discrimination and social injustice is important and essential, it’s not enough because actions speak louder than words.”

Those actions will ultimately lead to greater patient satisfaction, lower health disparities and a healthier Minnesota. In that spirit, we must keep the momentum going. We must never forget. And I’m looking forward to sharing more with you as our health plans fully commit to real and meaningful change.