Independence Blue Cross and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan have closed their transaction and finalized their arrangement to expand services to Medicaid beneficiaries nationally through the AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Cos., a Medicaid managed-care organization headquartered in Philadelphia.
“We’re excited to move forward in this progressive partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to pioneer new health-care solutions in the Medicaid market nationwide,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, IBC’s president and CEO.
“Through this arrangement, AmeriHealth and its expert, experienced professionals are poised to provide industry-leading Medicaid managed care services to states, Blue plans and others and widen access to quality care in communities across America.”
Under the transaction, IBC receives majority interest in AmeriHealth Mercy, while Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan receives minority interest. IBC previously shared ownership of AmeriHealth Mercy with Mercy Health Plan, a subsidiary of Mercy Health System.
AmeriHealth Mercy is one of the country’s largest Medicaid companies, serving almost 800,000 members in managed care plans in three states. AmeriHealth Mercy also offers services such as pharmacy benefits management, behavioral health care and management of medical care to an additional 3.2 million Medicaid, Medicare and SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) beneficiaries in 12 states. The company also provides expertise in customer service, information systems, claims management, enrollment and 24/7 nurse triage support.
“AmeriHealth Mercy is a highly regarded organization with an innovative approach to delivering Medicaid services on a national level,” said Daniel J. Loepp, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
“This strategic investment enables us to quickly gain expertise and bring that value to Medicaid consumers in Michigan.”
With the additional resources this transaction will bring from the two Blue health insurers, AmeriHealth Mercy is now better positioned to offer cost-effective, comprehensive Medicaid managed care coverage and services to Medicaid consumers nationwide and to the financially strapped state governments that provide Medicaid coverage. In 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act expands Medicaid eligibility across the United States, and this change will increase the number of people covered by Medicaid to 16 million by 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The new arrangement between IBC and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan provides an opportunity to Blue health plans nationwide to expand into the Medicaid market and take advantage of the growth expected in Medicaid over the next few years. The 39 independent Blue health insurance companies in the United States serve all 50 states and cover one in three Americans, but are not widely active in the Medicaid market. Two-thirds of Blue health plans do not currently serve Medicaid consumers.
To say this lady wears many hats is an understatement.
The Rev. Dr. Lorina Marshall-Blake is the president of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and vice president of Community Affairs for Independence Blue Cross (IBC).
She is also the mother of three children: Julian, Chawnda and Jamila; and grandmother of Jamile. One can sense the feeling of pride as she notes all of her children attended an historically Black college, i.e. Howard, Lincoln, Spelman and Xavier — and are successful in their respective careers.
Marshall-Blake serves as associate minister at Vine Memorial Baptist Church and spiritual chief officer at IBC where, from time to time, she has been called on to provide spiritual support for employees experiencing personal challenges and/or when an employee dies.
Additionally, this lady serves as president of the Omega Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. The group is a Pan-Hellenic organization with approximately 400 members. This is a position she has held since last fall.
The chapter has initiated the Emerging Youth Leaders program focusing on leadership by design, and on purpose, through the Bailey Arrington Leadership Institute.
In her role with the IBC foundation, her philosophy is to take the social to the philanthropic. The foundation serves Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties.
Marshall-Blake believes it important to see where the clinics are and to interact with the staff and clients. To that end, she has visited all 32 clinics. The foundation’s six-member board meets twice a year. Launched in 2011 with a $10 million budget, the foundation has awarded $3.25 million to date. She loves her job and views it as her dream job. She’s worked at IBC for 22 years and served on the board of directors at one point. Before this position, she worked at the Philadelphia Gas Works for 14 years.
Literally, a lady of many hats, she’s known for the stylish hats that she wears every day. Being ladylike is a trait she patterned after her grandmother and mother.
“It’s important for young girls to see ladies as role models and to be able to see themselves unfold and learn to have love for themselves — as referenced in Dr. Mona Lake’s poem ‘Getting Ready to Unfold,’” Marshall-Blake said.
This tastefully dressed businesswoman appreciates hearing remarks of admiration from passers-by as she moves from activity to activity in Center City.
Her wardrobe is developed from selections delivered by Fred Lee, a deacon at her church who provides this service for many of the female congregation members.
While many view her as a fashionista, she describes herself as a classic dresser. However, she always makes a special effort to seek out a unique pair of earrings from a jeweler in New York during Pennsylvania Society Weekend.
A self-proclaimed “typical” middle child of five children (one brother is deceased), she and her siblings were expected to do well, go to school and “don’t go out acting a fool.”
Her father was a master plumber and handyman, while her mother stayed home to raise the children. When she was a baby, she was nicknamed “Bootsy” because she was small enough to fit inside her father’s fishing boot.
One of her fondest childhood memories is of Friday nights eating Chinese shrimp dinner from Ms. Punchey’s.
The family didn’t vacation much, however, a visit to Atlantic City or Wildwood for the day and a trip to Ocean City for the weekend were special treats.
She reflects fondly on neighborhood entrepreneurs “Mr. Otis” and “Miss Sadie” and she feels good to still know most of the families on the street on which she was raised and where her 84-year-old mother still resides. She has a special smile as she shares that she talks with her mother every day, no matter where she is, in or out of the country, and does her laundry and performs other duties that a daughter does for her mother.
Always mindful that “God never blinks” Marshall-Blake was raised to always be grateful for whatever you have and to treat everyone with the dignity they deserve.
She attended Brooks Elementary and was in the first group of bused students (to Mitchell Elementary on Kingsessing Avenue) and Overbrook High School. She has a master of arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a master of divinity degree from Palmer Theological Seminary (she was ordained on July 21, 2004) and an honorary doctorate of humanities from Albright College in Reading, Pa.
Marshall-Blake sleeps only about 4 to 5 hours daily and it’s ok with her.
She’s able to balance her extremely busy business, civic and personal life because she’s organized.
She noted that she and her father, who was exceptionally organized, would be awake moving through the home and doing things while the rest of the family was still sleeping.
Mentors of this extremely busy businesswoman include Delores Brisbon, Rev. Dorothy Watson Tatum, Anne Wrice Mullin, Chris Cashman, Dan Hilferty, Bruce Crawley and Councilwoman Augusta A. Clark. She gives back by mentoring several young people within and outside of the company. The group consists of Ayana Moses, who is getting married in Ghana and has invited Marshall-Blake to participate in the ceremony), Joanne Ferguson, Shalimar Blakeley, Bridgette Daniels and Marcus Allen.
The list of role models includes her mother, first lady Michelle Obama, her pastor, the Rev. James Allen, and her good friends, the Rev. Sandra Reed and Jan Gillespie.
These three words characterize this lady executive.
Moving from meeting to meeting, and activity to event, she logs many hours on a daily basis changing from corporate hat to community member to board member to mother and friend. After knowing her for a while, many of her business associates affectionately call her “Reenie.”
The recipient of numerous awards, she is quite proud to have been acknowledged by the Wynnefield Presbyterian Church, Women of Faith, the League of Women Voters with its Civil Leadership Award, BEBASHI, the Tribune’s Most Influential list, the American Jewish Committee. She also received the G. Fred DiBona Leadership Award, the highest award given by Independence Blue Cross.
An avid reader, she enjoys material from a variety of genres and quotes from them with ease. Some of her favorite books are: the Bible; “Heaven is For Real: A Little Boys Story of His Trip to Heaven,” Todd Blupo, et al; “Great Day Every Day: Navigating Life’s Challenges with Promise and Purpose” (Max Lucado) and Dennis Kimbro’s “What Keeps Me Standing: Letters From Black Grandmothers on Peace, Hope and Inspiration.”
With respect to leadership style she refers to “Leading Like Madiba: Leadership Lessons from Nelson Mandela.” This philosophy suggests that one does not have to be in front to lead; rather, one can lead from behind using one’s influence, bench strength and by supporting others — “it’s not always about a title,” she notes.
Marshall-Blake is excited simply about life every day and the possibilities of each new day. While much of what she does is in the public realm, most wouldn’t know that she has run the IBC Broad Street Run twice (and that’s the limit she says while smiling). She also loves to cook, and is a great cook, which can be attested to by anyone who has had the pleasure of dining on a meal she has prepared.
Other community activities include serving on the boards of the Philadelphia Urban League, the Urban Affairs Coalition, the Black Women’s Health Alliance and the IBC Safety Advisory Commission. She also finds time to be affiliated with 2000 African American Women, the Community College of Philadelphia and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
Cultural heroes and “sheroes” include Fannie Lou Hamer, Sojourner Truth and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “If they hadn’t done what they did, we wouldn’t be here to do what we are doing,” Marshall-Blake said.
Living legends who complete her list include General Colin Powell, President Barack Obama, and Radio One founder Cathy Hughes.
“Our young people need to be able to see them and learn how they are able to do what they do,” she said.
Her office, with a large picture window looking out over the city, is that of a busy woman. One gets a sense of who she is and what her interests are from the books, artifacts and other materials that are displayed throughout the space.
Family photos, AKA paraphernalia, an African-American doll with a small bag of cotton (‘lest we forget’), a photo of President Barack Obama, numerous awards, a bookcase full of books and other mementos. Her degrees adorn her office walls and there is a coffee table near the cushiony couch near the entrance to her office that holds some of her favorite books.
“The key to my success is my faith walk,” Marshall-Blake said. “I believe that as I succeed, you succeed. I love my job. When I leave at the end of the day, I feel fulfilled. I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish at IBC. Those of us who are in these positions of leadership are the exception; we should be the rule, and young people should be able to see African Americans in different leadership roles.”
On Saturday, Feb. 11, I was among 700 guests at the American Heart Association’s 55th Annual Heart Ball. It was brisk and chilly outside but hearts were warm at one of Philadelphia’s premier black tie events at the Marriott Downtown Philadelphia.
The two distinguished individuals honored were 2012 Heart of Philadelphia Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross, and 2012 Edward S. Cooper, M.D. and Howard H. Weitz, M.D., director, division of cardiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. President of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, the Rev. Dr. Lorina Marshall-Blake said, “Dan Hilferty is one of the most compassionate and caring individuals that I know. I am so proud of his commitment and service to this region and his desire to make a difference" every day. He is a great role model who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. The American Heart Association made a wise choice when they selected Dan to be one their honorees at the 2012 Heart Ball.”
The highlight of the evening for me was having the opportunity to speak with Edward S. Cooper, M.D., emeritus professor of Medicine University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine and Past President of the American Heart Association who has served the organization for over 30 years. He cared for me and most of my family members before he retired and left us in the capable hands of Harold Mignott, M.D. at the Edward S. Cooper Internal Medicine Practice at Penn Medicine. It was a pleasure to be introduced to Aleta Rupert, American Heart Association executive director and vice president of development, by Dr. Cooper.
Cooper, the first African American to serve as president of the American Heart Association, is a brilliant and humble man who chose not to focus on himself but to commend me on my work and to laud Philadelphia Tribune president and CEO Robert W. Bogle. “Bob Bogle is my friend and was instrumental in communicating health care issues related to heart disease and stroke to the public. He made certain that this information could be understood by the lay person and disseminated it nationally. He has always invested much effort and his relationship with The American Heart Association goes back many years,” Dr. Cooper shared. “Being proactive and informed about the issues surrounding heart disease and stroke are major challenges,” he added.
Whenever I see Cooper he speaks of his close friendship with the late Maurice C. Clifford, M.D. who served as the first African-American health commissioner of the City of Philadelphia and the first African-American president of the Medical College of Pennsylvania. (Formerly Women’s Medical College) We will never forget this compassionate and accomplished physician.
Some of those “Out & About” having a great time and contributing to a great cause included A. Bruce Crawley, president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc. and Philadelphia Tribune columnist; Patricia M. Harris; and Judge Renee Caldwell Hughes, chief executive officer at American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter. Also attending were Ken Topping; Maria Pajil Battle, Amerihealth Mercy Foundation CEO; Rev. Dr. Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation; Sheila D. Vance of Sheila D. Vance Law Offices and Dr. Donald B. Parks, CEO of Parkstone Medical Associates and 2011–2012 American Heart Association Southeastern Board of Directors member.
Other guests were: Dee Reed and Emanuel Renard, Zoe Smith, Lorene Cary, Frances Conwell, Ray Welch, Billie and Gianna Jackson, Felicia Dark and Cedrick Edwards. Andrea Graham, Mrs. Philadelphia America, and Donna Mobley Thomas, Ms. Pa. Latina Ethnic World, were two of the greeters at the event.
It was a spectacular evening with all of the classic elements for an elegant affair. Everything from the cocktail reception, silent auction, to dinner and dancing until midnight was absolutely perfect. Shirleen Alcott, 6ABC news anchor, was a wonderful mistress of ceremonies for the evening.
Congratulations to 2012 Heart Ball Chairs Patrick J. O’Connor, Cozen O Connor, vice chair; Gerard H. Sweeney, Brandywine Realty Trust, vice chair; and Joan K. Richards, Crozer-Keystone Health System for making this another stellar year for the American Heart Association.
Happy Valentine’s Day, and take good care of your heart!
The second annual Philadelphia Tribune’s Christopher J. Perry/Carter G. Woodson Black History Awards Luncheon served as both a notable learning experience and networking opportunity for the 400 guests this week at the venerable Union League. Daniel J. Hilferty Jr., President/CEO, Independence Blue Cross and Michael A. Rashid, president/CEO, AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies co-hosted the informative program covering key points in Philadelphia's African-American history.
The Philadelphia Tribune was established in 1884 by Christopher J. Perry (1854-1920), a pioneering Black businessman who championed racial equality. The Tribune is recognized as the oldest continuously published African American newspaper in the nation.
Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson (1875–1950) launched Negro History Week in 1926 as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of Black people throughout American history. Since 1976, the week has expanded to Black History Month.
“We celebrate the 103rd anniversary of the NAACP, the 107th anniversary of Bright Hope Baptist Church, the 100th anniversary of the Seventh Day Adventists at 15th and Christian Streets and the 128th anniversary of The Philadelphia Tribune,” said Robert W. Bogle, president and CEO of The Philadelphia Tribune.
“Black History Month, which started out as a week, and is now a month and I'd like to suggest that every day is a Black history day in Philadelphia and in the United States of America,” remarked Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “Let us never forget our past, nor the expectation of a glorious future ahead of us for African Americans.”
Founded during the Civil War in 1862, the Union League's mission was to highlight the policies of Abraham Lincoln. During the latter decades of the 20th century, the League resolved its issues with minorities and women, and now boasts a diverse membership. It was a matter that keynote speaker speaker, H. Patrick Swygert, President Emeritus Howard University, recalled from his boyhood days in the city. “Kater Street was not six and a half blocks from Lincoln Hall here in the Union League, it was a universe away, because the idea and the notion that we might have the opportunity to meet today to enjoy each other's company and celebrate what is good about this great nation was unthinkable when I was a youngster in South Philadelphia,” said Swygert.
“The honorees today have made significant history, not only in our city, but in the nation,” said Rashid as Bogle presented History Makers Awards Episcopal Reverend Canon Thomas W. S. Logan, Pulitzer prize winning newspaper columnist Acel Moore and Radio One co-founder Cathy Hughes.
Father Logan, who is just weeks away from his 100th birthday, demonstrated his longevity when he spoke of horse drawn buggies circling City Hall. Moore reflected his longtime news roots: “Being able to live some of the history that has been announced today is significant. In the past few weeks, though, there have been some history makers that have gone too soon, from Fatimah Ali, to Whitney Houston, to others not as well know but to many of us as equally precious.” A visibly touched Hughes credited the Delaware Valley region as an important start to her career. “I'm grateful,” said Hughes as she held her award. “I'm honored. I live in DC, but I'm a Philadelphia girl.”
Independence Blue Cross has launched a $10 million foundation geared toward transforming health care in the Philadelphia region.
The IBC Foundation targets three areas: caring for the community’s most vulnerable; leading innovative approaches to health care and developing the health-care workforce of the future with an intense focus on nursing education.
“It is with great pride and enthusiasm that we announce the launch of the IBC Foundation,” said IBC president and CEO Daniel J. Hilferty.
“Building upon our deep commitment to our community, the foundation is poised to build healthier communities and spur innovation. By caring for the most vulnerable people in our community, enhancing the quality of health care for all and supporting groundbreaking innovations in health care, the foundation will help drive change in health care in our region for generations to come.”
The foundation’s creation was announced Thursday afternoon during the launch of IBC’s Nursing For Tomorrow Forum held at WHYY headquarters on Independence Mall.
Lorina Marshall Blake, IBC vice president of community affairs, will head the foundation.
The new foundation will focus on caring for the most vulnerable in the Philadelphia region by helping the uninsured get quality health care and supporting seniors and their caregivers. The newly created Blue Safety Net will provide $2 million in grants in 2011 to private nonprofit clinics that care for the uninsured and underinsured.
IBC announced foundation grants totaling $1 million to 15 clinics serving 70,000 patients in all five counties in the region.
The foundation’s second area of impact is directed at enhancing health-care delivery and will focus on developing the health-care workforce needed for the future. This work will concentrate on strengthening the region’s nursing workforce through a new $1.5 million initiative called Nurses For Tomorrow.
Nurses for Tomorrow will improve the quality of care in the region by increasing the supply of nurses and nurse educators through $1 million in scholarships awarded through 27 undergraduate nursing programs and 12 graduate nursing programs in the Philadelphia region. The Nurses for Tomorrow initiative will support the creation of three fellowships over the next two years to drive innovation in nursing education. The initiative will also establish continued education for nursing deans, nurse educators and administrators and support the development of a web-based resource for all area nursing schools.
“We are very excited about this new foundation and expanding our partnership with IBC ever further,” said Beverly Malone, CEO of the National League for Nursing, who joined IBC officials for the foundation’s launch.
“What can’t be overlooked is that IBC is not only continuing to support nursing education through scholarships, but again is leading the way in a manner no one else has thought to do.”
The foundation is launching a new Innovation Grant program that will provide $1 million to support projects and research that significantly advance the practice and delivery of health care. The foundation’s first Innovation Grant was awarded to the National Nursing Centers Consortium to enable area nonprofit clinics to use electronic medical records to provide more efficient and safer patient care.
The foundation’s website is now accepting applications for Innovation Grants at www.ibxfoundation.org.
Hilferty was joined at the foundation launch by Mayor Michael Nutter and Drexel University President John Fry, who highlighted IBC’s long partnership with Drexel.
The Art Sanctuary’s 28th Annual Celebration of Black Writing is the nation’s only literary festival of its kind, offering 13 days of literary discussions and workshops, music showcases and film screenings. Writers and artists will discuss their work with up to 2,000 students, and another 3,000 people will participate in panels, workshops and other events. The celebration features 75 professional and aspiring writers, editors, publishers, scholars, spoken-word artists, performance artists, playwrights and filmmakers. This year, selected panels and workshops will be streamed live for the first time online, and will also be archived so that new and enthusiastic readers and writers can access them anytime.
The Celebration of Black Writing brings acclaimed authors, scholars and performance artists from across the U.S. to meet, teach and interact with festival attendees through lectures, readings, workshops, panel discussions, family activities and performances. It connects established authors, emerging talent, novice writers and performance artists, with avid readers and local audiences spanning race, gender and background. The festival offers family-friendly events as well. Independence Blue Cross (IBC) and the AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies are the presenting sponsors for the program which runs from May 21 to June 2.
“We take great pride in our support of the Celebration of Black Writing festival, and in partnering with Art Sanctuary,” said Daniel Hilferty, president and CEO of IBC. “This exceptional and innovative organization educates and nurtures so many aspiring writers and other artists, and it improves the lives of thousands through promoting the arts.”
One of the major highlights of the festival is the Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony to be held Friday, June 1. With Art Sanctuary’s year-long theme of “Growing from Good to Great,” the organization will honor JET and Ebony magazines, with JET’s editor-in-chief Mitzi Miller accepting on behalf of both, and Marita Golden of the Hurston/Wright Foundation.
“We’ve got to hold (Black writers) in the light,” noted Lorene Carey, executive director, Art Sanctuary. “There is great value in holding the critical mass of African-American creative talent in the light — to use that Quaker phrase ‘to hold it in the light’ — there is great value in that. It’s valued for our own community. These are our griots. These people are telling a narrative about the Black experience — and the white experience, by the way — and they are narratives that are nourishing, necessary and sometimes very challenging for the growth of the African-American community. They are telling narratives that are necessary and nourishing to our larger community. ... They are some of the strongest explorers of questions that America needs to learn and to pose and challenge it and argue about. These people are doing it, and we have them here year after year. To keep it going year after year means that we relieve the pressure that’s on African-American artists, or the Black creative, to represent our amazing diversity in one shot.”
The Art Sanctuary’s 28th Annual Celebration of Black Writing takes place at several locations around the city, including Art Sanctuary, the Historic Church of the Advocate, the Kimmel Center and Temple University. The all-day festival taking place at Temple University on June 2 is free. Some events taking place during the 13-day festival, May 21 to June 2, are offered at a low ticket price. For more information and to get a full listing of the festival’s line-up, visit www.artsanctuary.org or call (215) 232-4485.
Civil rights activists, organizers, elected officials, and community stakeholders gathered at the Sheraton Hotel at 17th and Race streets for the 30th annual awards and benefit luncheon of the Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Nonviolence on Monday.
Hundreds attended the event, presided over by broadcaster E. Steven Collins. Several people were recognized for their work to elevate humanity. Among them was actress and AIDS activist Sheryl Lee Ralph, who received the Drum Major for International and National Humanitarianism award for her work in the fight against the AIDS virus.
“I accept this award in the spirit of C. DeLores Tucker,” said Ralph, who burst into song when accepting her award. She also brought up the late Tucker’s famous battle against vulgar and violent rap lyrics. “C. DeLores Tucker was right then, because we are feeling it now. When you turn on the radio you feel like you are being sexually abused.”
Ralph told the audience that she cried for both sets of children, those of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
“On a day like today, with an audience like this, we are the people we have been waiting for. With an audience like this, there is no reason why they should call Philadelphia ‘Killadephia’,” said Ralph.
The award of Drum Major for Global Human Rights was presented to Malaak Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, who built three schools in Ghana and serves as a board member of the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial Center.
Shabazz accepted her award while posing a question to the members of the audience.
“How many of you knew that 2011 was the international year of people African descent?” she asked. One hand went up, at which Shabazz instructed the audience members to use their computers to seek out such facts, as opposed to downloading video games.
She was followed by her sister, Ilyasah Shabazz, who received the Drum Major award for International and National Youth Development. Ilyasah, an author and lecturer, also produces training programs for at-risk youth.
“My premise is very simple: I believe that every child should have an opportunity to feel good about him or herself − that every child, regardless of race, creed or gender, should feel safe and secure,” said Ilyasah after receiving her award.
She spoke proudly of her mother, who witnessed the execution of her husband, raised her children on her own and continued to fight for the rights of her people against incredible odds.
Other awardees included Independence Blue Cross CEO Daniel J. Hilferty, who received the Drum Major for Corporate Cooperation award; Red Cross CEO Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, who received an award for ‘Community and Civic Responsibility, and Rosalee Smith, who received an award for ‘Equal Rights, Equal Justice and Equal Opportunity’.
During a ceremony held earlier that day, both daughters of Malcolm X were given the honor of ringing the Liberty bell during the National Bell Ringing Ceremony, held each year in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Surrounded by local dignitaries, elected officials and a crowd of onlookers, Malaak and Ilyasah Shabazz were greeted with applause as they stood, one on each side of the Liberty Bell, for the ceremonial ringing.
The sisters were introduced by broadcaster and talk show host Thera Martin Milling, who said it was the late Mrs.Coretta Scott King, who personally commissioned the Philadelphia Association’s founder C. DeLores Tucker to launch the celebration of her husband’s birthday.
“Every time we get to celebrate Dr. King, it is a great day,” said Milling.
While reflecting on King’s Dream, Mayor Michael Nutter took the opportunity to address the problem of violence on Philadelphia’s streets.
“What better place is there to talk about love than in the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection,” said Nutter. “We have had our challenges in recent times, not just economically but also civilly.”
Nutter said that all Philadelphians need to check themselves to see that they are living up to King’s legacy.
“We must be a more peaceful city, a more loving city and a less violent city. That is my hope every day,” said Nutter who has had to address the growing problem of violent crime on the cities streets.
Nutter was joined by Sen. Vincent Hughes, Congressman Chaka Fattah and U.S.Sen. Pat Toomey during ceremonial ringing of the Liberty Bell.
December 7 marks the deadline for Medicare beneficiaries to make changes to their Medicare Advantage (Part C) or prescription drug plans (Part D).
“There will not be an extension. People really do need to make that change by December 7,” said Roseanne Egan, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) acting regional administrator.
The open enrollment period, running from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, is the period when existing Medicare recipients can make changes to their plans. Medicare beneficiaries who do not make any changes by the deadline will remain in their existing plans.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recently mailed Medicare & You handbooks and postcards to more than 42 million households, reminding them of this year’s earlier deadline. In previous years, the enrollment period was Nov. 15–Dec. 31.
“The reason we did that is to allow the Medicare Advantage plans and prescription drug plans the opportunity to process all the changes in the new enrollment so that the beneficiaries can get their new cards for the January 1 date, so there won’t be any delays in access to care,” Egan said.
“This year CMS is highlighting plans that have achieved an overall quality rating of 5 stars with a high performer or “gold star” icon — so people with Medicare can easily find high-quality plans.
CMS officials said all Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to access Medicare Advantage plans that have zero premiums. There are 36 available prescription drug plans available in Pennsylvania.
This year, Independence Blue Cross introduced a low-cost Medicare Advantage plan with premiums as low as $15 a month.
“Medicare is just one of the many areas in our business where we saw an opportunity to be more responsive to our customers’ needs and were able to develop an innovative solution to meet those needs,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of IBC.
“We share our members’ concern about access to affordable Medicare health plans, and we’re pleased to launch this new HMO that offers low monthly premiums with the same high-quality benefits and services our members expect from us.”
As beneficiaries look over their new plan options, they will see better value in the Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plan benefits.
Beneficiaries with Part D coverage who are in the coverage gap, or “donut hole,” will continue to receive 50 percent discounts on covered brand-name drugs thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Average premiums for Part D prescription drug plans will also decrease to $30 in 2012, about 76 cents less compared to the average 2011 premium.
CMS officials said that as of October, 149,988 people in Pennsylvania with Medicare have saved an average of $592 per person on their prescriptions, accounting for savings of $89 million statewide.
As a result of the Affordable Care Act, more than 898,000 people have received at least one of the new free Medicare preventative benefits.
For enrollment information visit www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan, call 1-800-MEDICARE or call the APPRISE network at 1 (800)-783-7067.
Independence Blue Cross and Penn Medicine have teamed up with DreamIt Ventures to sponsor a Philadelphia-based health care accelerator – an organization that will jump start new companies developing innovative solutions in health care.
Designed to help promising health care startups rapidly accelerate the development of new products and high impact business models, the DreamIt Health accelerator will provide cash, guidance from experiencing health care executives and entrepreneur and office space to 10 young companies selected for a four-month boot camp.
DreamIt Health will accept applications now through Feb. 8 from startups nationwide in the health care sector, and on March 8 will select 10 early-stage companies that have strong founders, innovative products or services, and entrepreneurial passion to participate. From April to July 2013, the companies will work in a space at Venturef0rth in Philadelphia, whose offices are specifically designed to house and support startup companies.
The accelerator will give each selected company a stipend of up to $50,000, plus in-depth mentoring, coaching from experts, and access to other critical health care-specific resources to rapidly develop and test its product, validate its business model with potential customers, and get the company organized and ready to pitch to investors. The program will culminate in a “demo day” when the 10 companies will present their businesses to an audience of leading investors and health care organizations.
“At Independence Blue Cross, we believe that innovation is the key to bringing fresh ideas into health care and truly changing the game,” said IBC President and CEO Daniel J. Hilferty.
“From the IBX Game Changers Challenge to creating DreamIt Health, we are committed to transforming the Philadelphia region into a national magnet for health care innovation, investment, and employment.”
Officials said IBC and Penn Medicine are uniquely positioned to provide contacts, a potential customer’s perspective, and resources like access to data and technology that health care startups need to succeed.
“We are deeply committed to translating strategies from discovery to application in clinical practice,” stated University of Pennsylvania Health System CEO Ralph Muller.
“Through the partnership of Penn Medicine and IBC on DreamIt Health, we have established a collaborative relationship between the health insurer and the health system, eliminating the usual obstacles to health care innovation.”
DreamIt offers a network of mentors and a curriculum to guide the growth of young technology companies. Participants in the accelerator will have the opportunity to rapidly build out their products and services using claims and clinical data as well as other resources. By acquiring potential customer validation, participating companies will be able to accelerate their progress toward raising capital and launching to a broader marketplace. DreamIt has launched 80 companies over the past four years who have raised over $80 million in follow-on investment capital with an enterprise value of close to $330 million.
The accelerator encourages applications from companies nationwide that take a broad view of working across the health care industry, including health insurers, physicians, hospitals, and others in the health care industry, to apply technology to the challenges of proactively keeping people healthy, as well as providing more effective and affordable interventions when people get sick.
“We want to apply the same spirit of collaboration that enabled us to create this accelerator with Penn Medicine and DreamIt across the health care, technology, and innovation fields, and transform the Philadelphia region into a magnet for innovative health care technology and entrepreneurs from across the country,” stated Hilferty.
For information visit www.dreamitventures.com/programs/dreamithealth/about-dreamit-health.
Independence Blue Cross is introducing lower prices for new small business customers.
Effective December 1, IBC would begin offering new medically underwritten PPO, HMO and direct point of service Blue Solutions to small businesses that are new customers.
“The men and women who own and operate the tens of thousands of small businesses in our region face unique challenges when choosing health coverage — challenges that we understand — and we are committed to offering small businesses health plans that fit,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, IBC’s president and CEO.
“We are expanding the number of choices small businesses have for health coverage and offering highly competitive rates for new small business customers — as much as 30 percent lower than rates we previously offered.”
With the introduction of the new plans, IBC becomes the only health insurer in the region offering a medically underwritten HMO to small businesses.
In January, IBC introduced Blue Solutions, a streamlined suite of health plans that offer ways to help businesses with fewer than 50 employees control expenses.
“As a result, about half of our customers with 10 to 50 employees got premium rate reductions when they renewed their health coverage with us for 2011,” said Brett Mayfield, vice president of sales.
“When we begin to offer medically underwritten plans in December to small businesses that are new or former IBC customers, we will also be able to provide lower, more affordable rates than in the past to many more small employers.”
The new HMO health plan with medically underwritten pricing will help small businesses that want to lower costs while still satisfying their employees’ preference for Blue health plans.
Starting October 3, IBC will begin providing initial rate quotes for these new medically underwritten health plans to potential new small employer customers with two to 50 employees. Generally, businesses whose employees need fewer health care services qualify for lower rates.
“IBC’s move to medical underwriting for small group customers is a boost for many small business owners in the region,” said Jerry McGlone, president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Health Underwriters (GPAHU), the region’s broker association.
“With the new rating methodology in place, I would expect IBC to be more aggressive in its pricing, which will result in increased competition among the major carriers and more options for small employers.”
IBC is the only insurer in the Philadelphia market that has not been medically underwriting health plans for small employers. Since competitors began offering exclusively medically underwritten coverage to small businesses in 2003, IBC has lost a significant number of customers as small employers with more healthy employees left IBC for the lower, medically underwritten rates available through other health insurers. For many small group customers who wanted a Blue health plan, there was no affordable Blue option.
“This change for small businesses can provide lower costs for many customers because it levels the playing field among all carriers, and allows the risk to be more evenly distributed across insurers, while also creating an easier transition into 2014, when health care reform takes effect,” said George Rosiak, general agent for Emerson Reid & Co. in Plymouth Meeting.
“This also creates greater opportunity for clients to benefit from their brokers’ expertise in a more competitive marketplace.”
Rosiak, who serves a large number of small business customers, added that in working with new customers, he recommends they shop the market to find the best possible fit for their businesses. With all carriers offering similar rating criteria, he would recommend customers base their buying decisions on network, carrier stability, personal demographics, and selecting a brand they trust.
Mayfield expressed how the pricing for IBC’s new small business will work.
When a small business expresses interest to its broker in a health plan from IBC, he said, the broker will provide IBC basic demographic information about the company’s employees and will request a rate quote. IBC will then provide an initial quote, based on the employees’ age and gender information and the assumption that the employees are healthy, Mayfield said.
Then the broker will ask the business’s employees to complete questionnaires about their medical histories over the past five years, he said. IBC underwriters then review the questionnaires to provide a final premium rate quote, on average, within three business days, Mayfield concluded.
“We care about all of our customers and our current small business customers will continue to get competitive rates when they renew their contracts,” Mayfield said.
He explained that beginning in January 2011, IBC changed how it set rates for its renewing small businesses and began basing rates on five factors: age, gender, location, size and claims experience.
IBC continues to use this pricing methodology for current customers, and this year, 47 percent of customers with 10 to 50 employees got rate reductions with their plan renewals, while 70 percent got new rates that were below medical cost trend, which is a measure of the increase in the costs of medical services.
Before January 2011, IBC provided pricing for new and existing small business customers based primarily on three demographic factors — the age, gender, and family status of those enrolled.