Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts’ Law Department to Receive the Corporate Champion Award at the 2022 Beacon Awards for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
“Each one of us has a role in making diversity and inclusion a part of everything we do. Whether we’re answering the phones or leading a large group of associates, we can all seek out new perspectives, learn from those with different backgrounds and experiences, and welcome all styles and approaches. As we do, we’re building the strength and flexibility we need to respond to the demands of an ever-changing marketplace.”
– Andrew Dreyfus,
President and Chief Executive Officer,
Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts
In many workplaces, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts are focused exclusively on recruitment, bringing more diversity into the fold. As vital as these efforts are, too often there’s a disconnect between DEI efforts during the hiring process, and the ongoing programs that build affinity and cultural competency within the organization.
At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, however, the in-house Law Department – under the leadership of Senior Vice President and General Counsel Don Savery – has proven to be a leader in demonstrating that DEI work doesn’t end at the offer letter. It continues, daily, through internal and external practices that promote a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive legal profession.
To advance the work within Blue Cross, Savery launched the Law Department’s own DEI Committee in January of 2020, appointing Deputy Counsel Dawn Perry to oversee the group, which is co-chaired by Assistant General Counsel Katiuscia Potier and Associate General Counsel Melissa Bradley Horine. The Committee’s work – in partnership with the full Law Department – focuses on providing ongoing opportunities for learning and discussion, and offering foundational training on issues such as unconscious bias. At Savery’s direction, the group also updated the Department’s outside counsel guidelines to include diversity measures.
In addition, BCBSMA is taking a more active role in ensuring that its outside firms are committed to recruiting and maintaining a more diverse team of attorneys. In addition to updating its outside counsel guidelines to include specific DEI expectations, Savery and Perry recently introduced a new survey for outside law firms to get an understanding of their own DEI efforts and results.
“We view having diverse representation on our outside counsel teams as critical to our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts,” said Savery. “We have a highly diverse law department, and we’d expect our outside firms to be equally committed to advancing DEI within their own ranks and providing a diverse team to work with us.”
Blue Cross is also facilitating important conversations at its outside law firms. Each year, members of the Blue Cross legal team present to several firms’ summer associates, offering insight into practicing law as in-house counsel, helping a new cohort of diverse lawyers envision themselves in those roles. This ensures that these new cohorts of diverse lawyers can not only envision themselves in a setting like Blue Cross, but also – and perhaps more importantly – they can see that people who look like them are part of the fabric of the legal community. This initiative began in 2018 at the suggestion of Foley Hoag and has grown in recent years to include other partner firms of Blue Cross.
The Blue Cross Law Department enjoys wide participation from team members in a variety of DEI initiatives. All of Blue Cross’s lawyers attended a lawyer retreat, which highlighted DEI as a key theme. The group welcomed Macey Russell of Choate, who led a discussion around DEI in the legal industry and what in-house lawyers can do to promote it. In addition, the Department hosts quarterly “Lunch and Learn” seminars, often with a guest speaker or training session followed by a discussion. According to Perry, these discussions are facilitated with the belief that there is “no right question, no wrong question, and no bad question.”
“We began with the idea that we were creating a safe space to have authentic conservations, but we didn’t want to assume that everyone was starting at the same place,” said Perry.
“And people really appreciate the discussions, even the tough ones. By removing the fear of asking the ‘wrong’ question, the conversations become robust, authentic and impactful.”
Both Savery and Perry credit CEO Andrew Dreyfus and former Blue Cross Executive Vice President of Medicare and Chief Legal Officer Stephanie Lovell for making DEI a significant part of the Blue Cross agenda. Lovell has been a longtime volunteer leader within the Boston Association and Foundation, having served as the Chair of the Boston Bar Foundation Grants Committee, as a member of the Boston Bar Association Council, and as a Trustee of the Boston Bar Foundation.
In addition to recruiting, promoting, and retaining diverse employees at all levels, Blue Cross is also training its leaders on best practices for managing diverse teams, expanding employee education on cultural competency, fostering a company culture where every voice is welcomed, heard, and valued, and honoring and observing the history of diverse populations, starting with adding Juneteenth to the company’s holiday observance calendar.
When a once-in-a-century pandemic exposed nationwide racial inequities in health care, Blue Cross launched a first-to-market initiative to address it. The Blue Cross Health Equity Report examines data from more than 1.3 million commercial Massachusetts members and identifies racial disparities in care. It’s an effort that, according to Lovell, can have meaningful and far-reaching change.
“We knew that there was a dimension of quality of care that was not as present as it needs to be for Black and Brown communities,” said Lovell, who recently retired. “There have been data for decades showing that if two people walked into a healthcare setting with a similar medical condition, they would not necessarily be treated the same for reasons that don’t appear to have a cause other than the difference in the color of their skin, or the community they live in. It’s a problem many people have studied but few have actually tried to solve, and so the effort that we’re engaged in now is to actually solve that problem.”
By analyzing the demographics of its members, and cross referencing with claims data, Blue Cross’ Health Equity Report was able to identify patterns of differences that revealed racial and ethnic inequities in the quality of care. The company is now taking a multi-faceted approach towards making access to healthcare more equitable. In addition to building a commitment to equity into its provider contracts and payment programs, Blue Cross is collaborating with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to create innovative new solutions. Finally – and perhaps most effectively – making the Health Equity Report findings public is helping to inspire change.
“The information incentive is actually more effective than the monetary one,” said Lovell. “Health care providers want to be viewed as providing the best care, and if you give them information that shows that they’re not, there’s a natural incentive for them to really analyze what they are doing and improve their practices.”
Now that Blue Cross has done the initial groundbreaking work of capturing a baseline on current inequities in health care, they are committed to using the same data collection process to gauge progress in solving it. By monitoring claims through this lens of racial and ethnic disparities in care, they can see in real time if and when practice patterns change.
“Our goal is eliminating racial disparities in the care our members receive, and measurement is the first step,” said Dreyfus. “We’re publishing these results, which will be updated at least annually, to hold ourselves accountable.”
Blue Cross has been a longstanding partner of the Boston Bar Association, and the BBA has been honored to recognize Blue Cross for their ongoing commitment to serving the community throughout the years. In 2018, the BBA honored Blue Cross with the Thurgood Marshall Award for their innovative pro bono program launched by the attorneys, paralegals, and administrative staff in their legal department. Blue Cross attorneys represented children who came into the United States as unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings to protect the children from deportation. In 2004, William Van Faasen, then CEO of Blue Cross, was awarded with the Boston Bar Foundation Public Service Award for his work leading Blue Cross’ efforts to address health care inequities and social issues through Massachusetts.
“A lot of companies talk about this work, but Blue Cross puts real resources and expertise behind its initiatives,” stated Tracey West, Member of the BBA’s Beacon Award Selection Committee, and Co-Chair of the BBA DEI Selection Committee. “Beyond its legal department, BCBSMA is working to build equitable communities through its action to address racial health disparities and influence positive polity by forming partnerships at the grassroots level, and supporting Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) led not-for-profit organizations. The Selection Committee believes Blue Cross is a true corporate champion.”