Pandemics impact us all, but certainly not equally. Among the many tragedies of COVID-19 is that it is hurting people who were already in need — including Minnesotans who were struggling with their health, financial stability and other basic necessities long before any of this started.

One silver lining of this unprecedented crisis is that it is also bringing people together in ways big and small. If we needed any more evidence that our Council members support the overall well-being of their enrollees, then this situation is proving it. The social determinants of health (SDOH) — like food, housing or another need — are becoming increasingly important for our enrollees during this pandemic, and I’m so proud of the ongoing work that Minnesota’s nonprofit health plans are doing to support people and communities during this tough time.

Our members — including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Hennepin Health, Medica, PreferredOne, Sanford Health Plan and UCare — are directly aiding those who are most vulnerable. This includes health care workers, seniors, people with chronic medical conditions, people with emotional and behavioral problems, those facing abuse and those who lack income to meet their basic needs.

Since this pandemic began, Council members have stepped up in numerous ways to help enrollees. For instance, The Medica Foundation announced in late March that it was donating $1 million across 18 Minnesota nonprofits to meet emergency needs brought on by COVID-19, including $50,000 to Anna Marie’s Alliance to help provide safe shelter and support for battered women and their children. Meanwhile, The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation announced in late April that it was contributing over $1 million to support communities during the pandemic, including $100,000 to the Coalition of Asian-American Leaders as part of its anti-racism campaign.

Also, the UCare Foundation announced in late April that it was providing $500,000 in assistance for Minnesotans impacted by the pandemic, including infrastructure grants up to $25,000 to small provider groups and community clinics for enhancements to provide care in a COVID-19 environment.

And these are just a few initiatives that have kicked off since the pandemic started. Collectively, health plans and their foundations have:

  • Provided millions of dollars for assistance related to social isolation, mental health, telehealth, food insecurity, domestic abuse and personal protective equipment. Organizations receiving support include the Greater Twin Cities United Way, People Serving People, YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine, NorthPoint Health & Wellness, Wellness in the Woods, Twin Cities Mobile Market, Higher Ground Shelter, Mary’s Place, Carris Health, Minnesota Recovery, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, Open Arms, Washburn Center for Children, Anna Marie’s Alliance, Big Lake Community Food Shelf, Christian Social Services in Monticello and many more.
  • Distributed some 15,000 individual hand sanitizers to our members, group homes, small businesses, senior and other organizations across Minnesota.
  • Supplied bags to local food banks and food shelves to help in the packing of food.
  • Purchased and distributed iPads for telehealth video interactions.
  • Supplied remote home monitoring equipment to help people manage their chronic medical conditions.
  • Distributed snack packs, toothbrushes and toothpaste to those in need.
  • Provided disposable medical masks to group homes, transportation providers and non-physician small allied providers.

The COVID-19 crisis may be with us longer than we’d like, but it will end at some point. When that happens, we can be grateful that Minnesota’s nonprofit health plans stepped up in a big way to ease the pain of those affected by the pandemic’s health and economic impacts. And as a world-renowned health care community, we can also be proud that the various players in our system came together to keep Minnesotans as healthy and safe as possible when they needed it most.