BCN joins Hospice of Michigan to bring ‘Ernie’ the play to Grand Rapids

Residents of West Michigan will get a chance to see the hit play “Ernie,” celebrating the life of legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, when it makes a two-week run in September as a special fundraiser at the Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids.

The play, by noted sportswriter, radio host and bestselling author Mitch Albom, will run for 12 performances Sept. 12-23. Proceeds benefit Hospice of Michigan’s Open Access Program, which provides care to people living with a terminal illness and need help, regardless of age, diagnosis or ability to pay.

Blue Care Network is signing on as presenting sponsor for the play as it makes its West Michigan debut, continuing the Blues’ long-running support for the play. “Ernie” made its world debut at Detroit’s City Theater in June 2011 and is currently enjoying an encore presentation that wraps up July 29, with BCBSM once again as presenting sponsor.

The play features audio and video of many famous Harwell calls and historic Tigers games, plus insight into Harwell’s personality and rich personal life gleaned by Albom over the years he got to know the man known affectionately as the “Voice of Summer.”

After he retired from broadcasting, Harwell served as a walking advocate and spokesman for the Blues. He died in 2010 at age 92.

For more information about the play, visit Mitch Albom’s website, or read the news release. Ticket information will be available at Hospice of Michigan’s website.

Success of Michigan hospital partnerships lands on New York Times front page

A recent front page story in The New York Times about nationwide efforts to trim hospital costs highlights news coverage of BCBSM’s efforts to improve patient safety and health care quality through its partnerships with Michigan hospitals.

In April, the Blues announced that four of its Collaborative Quality Initiatives with Michigan hospitals saved $232.8 million over three years.

Here’s a roundup of stories that take a deep dive into the news:

New York Times: In Michigan, for example, Blue Cross financed an effort to have the state’s major hospitals compare results in areas like bariatric or general surgery so that they could reduce infection rates and surgical complications. The insurer never sees data that identifies individual hospitals, and the hospitals meet regularly to discuss how they can learn from one another to improve care.

“There’s basically a ‘leave your guns at the door’ attitude,” said Dr. Darrell Campbell, the chief medical officer for the University of Michigan Health System.

The program’s benefits extend far beyond Blue Cross’s own customers, according to the insurer’s calculations. Only a third of the savings was attributable to patients it insured. Unlike previous attempts by insurers to reward individual hospitals for quality and efficiency, the program tries to help all hospitals improve.

The earlier efforts, which focused on overly specific measures or reporting on individual hospitals, “tended to inspire providers to do the least necessary to achieve the incentive rather than the most to transform care,” said Dr. David Share, a senior executive at Blue Cross.

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CHRT Study on Variation in Treatment of Heart Disease in Michigan Yields Coverage in National News Media

A new study from the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, a nonprofit partnership between BCBSM and the University of Michigan Health System, that finds wide variation in how providers treat coronary artery disease in different parts of the state has gained attention from the national news media.

The study, Variation in Interventional Cardiac Care in Michigan, focused on treatment methods for stable, non-emergency coronary disease — specifically, the rates of bypass surgery and angioplasty (stents) among patients with BCBSM insurance. It found that while overall rates for the two procedures dropped 19 percent between 1997 and 2008, regional variation rose considerably.

The findings raise concerns about the appropriate use of these high-risk, high-cost procedures in elective, non life-threatening situations when treatments like medication, diet or exercise may be more appropriate.

Here’s a roundup of news coverage:

This is a pretty common story in American medicine right now: A 2008 Congressional Budget Office report estimated that new technologies account for about half of the growth in health care costs. And some do indeed make us healthier: The rise of minimally invasive surgical equipment, for example, has cut the health risks and recovery time for undergoing surgery.

But some may just make healthcare more expensive — without delivering better health outcomes. And that’s not just true for catheterization labs: Another study this year looked at how this happens with prostate cancer treatments. Doctors with access to pricier proton therapies tend to use it more, even though its outcomes have proven no better than less-expensive radiation treatments. (Washington Post)

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Program Gets African American Churches to Compete ‘Body & Soul’ For Better Health

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the American Cancer Society are teaming up with churches around the state to improve the health of African Americans. Churches in Grand Rapids, Flint, and southeast Michigan are taking a stand and consciously choosing a healthier lifestyle by competing in Body & Soul and the Blues Community Challenge.

Body & Soul is a health program developed by the American Cancer Society specifically for African-American churches. The program empowers church members to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables by providing resources, education and information about nutrition and other healthy lifestyle habits.

Circles of Influence

The program recognizes the powerful role of the church in black communities.

“The African-American church is one of the most (if not the most) trusted institution in the African-American community,” said the Rev. Dallas Lenear of New Hope Baptist Church in Grand Rapids. “Inspiration and information from pastors and church leaders are generally well-received. When local pastors join forces around a common goal, the entire community takes notice.”

African Americans have their own set of challenges with chronic diseases and health disparities:

  • Roughly 40 percent of African American men in Michigan will not live past their 65th birthday.
  • African American women are more likely to die from heart disease than women of other races.
  • African Americans of both genders are much more likely to develop and die from cancer than any other racial or ethnic group.

BCBSM provides the physical activity component of the program through an online tool that helps participants log how many minutes of exercise they’re getting each day, with the minutes then translated into mileage. The churches whose members log the most walking miles by the end of the challenge are awarded grant money to support health ministry efforts.

“We are working with our community partners to identify and address health disparities,” said Bridget Hurd, director of Community Responsibility for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “We find it is most effective to work with organizations that are already involved in the community and recognized as leaders and decision-makers; this helps us in our efforts to improve the health status of Michigan residents in communities throughout the state.”

It Takes a Village

The goal is to empower people to take personal responsibility for their health.

“I just jumped on board because I needed to lose some weight,” said Lynn Gleton, a participant of Body & Soul and the Blues’ Challenge in Detroit last year. “That was the driving force, and then I found out I have high blood pressure, so I am trying to do some things to lower my blood pressure. That’s why I was excited about the walking part of the program.”

With the U.S. spending more than ever on chronic disease like those listed above, every step counts. The Blues’ Community Challenge gives members from churches that are participating in American Cancer Society’s Body & Soul program an extra incentive to get moving. Challenges begin at churches in the following three communities:

  • Southeast Michigan: May 6- July 28
  • Grand Rapids: May 5 – July 28
  • Flint: August – October

Learn more about the ACS Body & Soul program at Cancer.org/bodyandsoul. Or check out a video about last year’s program, below.


 

Daniel J. Loepp Op-Ed in Detroit News Celebrates Success of Michigan Hospital Partnerships

Daniel J. Loepp

Initiatives under way across Michigan that benefit from Blue Cross’ support are receiving national recognition for their success in slowing health care costs, BCBSM President and Chief Executive Daniel J. Loepp writes in a recent Detroit News opinion piece.

In the op-ed, “Michigan sets example for saving health care costs,” Loepp discusses how four BCBSM-led Collaborative Quality Initiatives saved $232.8 million by improving clinical quality and patient safety. He also touches on the Blues’ support for the Keystone Center for Patient Safety and Quality, a voluntary program run by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association that has helped improve health care and lower costs.

Loepp writes:

The programs that Blue Cross has under way with doctors involve the voluntary participation of often competing hospitals or physician groups and a willingness to share and compare data around common medical procedures.

This level of collaboration is unprecedented in Michigan health care.

With help from the University of Michigan Health System and Beaumont Hospitals, we’ve been able to determine best-practice protocols for procedures like bariatric surgery, breast cancer treatment and angioplasty.

By having everyone work together, we can determine what’s working and what isn’t, giving huge systemwide boosts to patient safety and clinical quality while lowering costs.

Read the rest of Loepp’s commentary here.

Quality Improvement Projects in Michigan Helping Bend the Health Care Cost Curve

If you are concerned about what’s going on with the escalating cost of health care in this country, you should feel good about the work going on right here in Michigan.

Four programs BCBSM sponsors with Michigan hospitals have saved a combined $232.8 million over three years, lowering complication rates for Michigan patients and literally saving lives.

The Collaborative Quality Initiatives, as we call them, target health care quality, patient safety and improved outcomes. They cover some of the most commonly performed and costly areas of medical care: general surgery, cardiac and thoracic surgery, angioplasty, and bariatric surgery.

Widespread Benefits

The savings benefit more than just people who carry Blue Cross insurance. About two-thirds of the savings was spread across patients with Medicare, Medicaid or non-BCBSM private insurance and the uninsured.

We started these initiatives in 1997 when we joined five hospitals to study variation in angioplasty procedures and treatment. The initiative resulted in drastically fewer emergency bypass surgeries and other complications and saved $15.2 million in an early analysis (this program saw the largest savings — $102 million — from 2008 through 2010).

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BluesWeek: Michigan Supreme Court Order Allows Continued Growth For Accident Fund

The Accident Fund headquarters in Lansing.

On April 6, the Michigan Supreme Court ended an appeal filed by former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox in a lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The Supreme Court’s order affirms decisions of the Circuit Court and Court of Appeals that Accident Fund Holdings — a for-profit, workers compensation company and wholly-owned subsidiary of BCBSM — may own and operate its own subsidiary insurance companies, including those based outside the state of Michigan.

The Value of Accident Fund

This outcome is important to BCBSM. Blues’ ownership of Accident Fund returns significant long-term value to Blues’ health insurance ratepayers. BCBSM uses profits generated by Accident Fund to offset revenue that otherwise would have to be generated by health insurance lines of business.

Accident Fund also generates significant contributions for the state’s economy, and Lansing’s growing reputation as a national hub for insurance companies. Accident Fund is the 10th-largest workers compensation insurer in the nation, and owning subsidiaries based in other states allows the company to compete and grow its business outside Michigan. Accident Fund is headquartered in Lansing, where it employs 617 people, and last year opened a new national headquarters in a restored power plant in the heart of the city’s downtown. This new headquarters allowed BCBSM to bring hundreds of its own suburban Lansing workers into downtown Lansing to occupy Accident Fund’s former headquarters building. Accident Fund’s headquarters was constructed for growth, and it plans to remain and increase its workforce in mid-Michigan as it continues to grow its national customer base.

A separate count in the lawsuit regarding the ability of BCBSM to make capital contributions to Accident Fund is still pending in the Circuit Court, after being remanded from the Court of Appeals. We are confident the Circuit Court will follow the previous decision of the Commissioner of Insurance and rule in BCBSM’s favor, that the transfer of capital to Accident Fund from BCBSM was lawful.

If you have any questions about this ruling, please contact our newsroom at 313-549-9884.

Upcoming Event Reminder

Blue Cross and several partnering health care providers will make a major announcement about four statewide Collaborative Quality Initiatives on Tuesday, April 17 at the Blues’ Bricktown Auditorium in Detroit. The media is invited and encouraged to attend. The CQI program enlists hospitals and other providers across Michigan in comprehensive efforts to improve patient safety and clinical quality while reining in health care costs.

BluesWeek is a weekly snapshot of initiatives, events and other newsworthy tidbits under way at BCBSM

BluesWeek: Blues to Celebrate Achievements of Health Care Quality Partnerships

Blue Cross and a number of partnering health care providers will unveil new data reflecting significant achievements in four statewide Collaborative Quality Initiatives Tuesday, April 17 in Detroit. Health care reporters are invited to attend the event, which will highlight new progress made in efforts to improve patient safety and clinical quality while lowering costs in Michigan.

The Blues will be well represented at a Health Policy Symposium Friday, April 13 in Ann Arbor. Tom Simmer, the Blues’ senior vice president and chief medical officer, will appear on a policy panel, while Dr. David Share, vice president, Value Partnerships, will moderate another. The symposium, sponsored by the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, will explore ways to bridge the gap between health care research and policy.

Staff members at A Healthier Michigan are hard at work narrowing the field of entries for the “Make the Play for Healthy Habits” kid video contest. Readers can vote for their favorite finalists for two weeks starting April 13 on the blog. The winner, to be announced in early May, gets a school assembly with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and an opportunity to be a featured guest blogger.

In Case You Missed It

A federal court in Detroit has dismissed a lawsuit against the Blues by the city of Pontiac that alleged the insurer harmed competition by striking discounts with Michigan hospitals. Pontiac last year joined litigation by the U.S. Department of Justice taking aim at the discounts, which Blue Cross negotiates with hospitals in an effort to maintain access to quality health care and hold down costs.

Rate increases continued to moderate for small employer groups in Michigan during the fiscal third quarter of 2012. BCBSM announced a statewide average increase of 7 percent, compared with an average 12 percent increase over each of the last two years, a reflection of efforts to introduce more cost-effective products, promote wellness and partner with providers to improve the quality of health care. Blue Care Network’s average rate increase for small groups fell below 7 percent.

Blue Cross registered dietitian Grace Derocha, a blogger on A Healthier Michigan, stopped by the WJBK Fox 2 News studios to share her portion control props and talk about how to “Give Green a Chance” in your diet. Watch her segment with morning host Deena Centofanti here.

The Healthier Michigan Radio Show for April took a look at the how walking can improve your health. Host Ann Thomas interviewed guests Jodi Davis, BCBSM’s walking advocate and blogger, and Blues health coach and blogger Angela Jenkins. The episode is available for listening online or as a podcast.

BluesWeek is a weekly snapshot of initiatives, events and other newsworthy tidbits under way at BCBSM

Photo by UMHealthSystem

Lansing-Area Communities Share $10,000 in Wellness Grants After Record Blues’ Community Challenge

Lynda Hyde, left, shares her story with BCBSM walking advocate Jodi Davis at the Blues' Community Challenge and Winter Warm-Up recognition event in Lansing.

With a boost from the Blues, participants in the Winter Warm-Up and Blues’ Community Challenge took a few walks around the Earth this winter — and never left the Lansing area to do it. 

The occasion was a free eight-week walking and physical activity competition between nine Greater Lansing communities. Together, nearly 2,400 participants logged an astounding 208,862 miles — the equivalent of more than eight trips around the Earth’s equator. Teams from each of the nine communities competed by signing up community members to log their physical activity.

The competing communities benefitted by taking home grant awards from BCBSM totaling almost $10,000, including $3,000 to the winning city of Lansing. The money is used to support public health and wellness projects within each community, such as bike trails, playground equipment, park benches and recreational splash pads.

Here are the other winning communities:

  • City of Charlotte — $2,000
  • Delhi Township — $1,000
  • City of East Lansing — $750
  • Delta Township — $750
  • City of St. Johns — $750
  • City of Grand Ledge — $500
  • Lansing Township — $500
  • City of Williamston — $500

Encouraging Signs

The Winter Warm-up and the Blues Community Challenge are hopeful signs that more people are embracing fitness and physical activity as a way to achieve good health. We saw a 40 percent leap in the number of residents actively participating in this year’s Blues’ Community Challenge and Winter Warm-Up.

Lynda Hyde from St. Johns tearfully shared her story at the celebration event March 10. When she first registered, she could not walk for more than three or four minutes or finish the indoor course at the Lansing Mall.

She is now walking 15 to 17 minutes a day and can walk in a swimming pool for up to an hour. She no longer needs a cane and is motivated to continue exercising.

“It’s amazing how everything just seemed to line up, how each piece just fell into place,” Hyde said. “I feel like it is just meant to happen at this time in my life. It is now the time for me to lose weight.”

With the help of groups such as Community Health Partners, a nonprofit coalition of Lansing-area organizations dedicated to making mid-Michigan a healthy place to live, the Blues will continue to work hard to create active, healthy communities across the state. These efforts improve health status and control health care costs for everyone in the long run.

Blues on the Radio: Health Benefits of Walking Take Center Stage in April

Blue Cross personalities appear regularly on a variety of FM and AM radio programs throughout the state and we’re going to start sharing those interviews regularly here on Blues Perspectives.

The Healthier Michigan Radio Show

With National Walk at Lunch Day coming up on April 25, The Healthier Michigan Radio Show in April focuses on the health benefits of walking. Guests are Jodi Davis, the Blues’ walking advocate, who shares the steps she took to lose over 160 pounds; and Angela Jenkins, a health coach for Blue Cross who details the health benefits of walking and why National Walk at Lunch Day is a great opportunity to motivate coworkers, employees and just about anyone to take a walk for good health.

The hour-long show is  available online or as a podcast. It also airs at the following times on the following stations:

  • WJR-AM in Detroit, 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3
  • WJIM-AM in Lansing, 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3
  • WOOD-AM in Grand Rapids, 9 p.m. Sunday, April 8
  • WTCM-FM in Traverse City, 9 p.m. Monday, April 9

Talk of the Town

Also in April, Jeff Connolly, president of West Michigan Operations and Managed Care for the Blues, will speak with Steve Kelly of WOOD Radio on topics including Young Adult Blue MaxSM and other individual health plan products and National Walk at Lunch Day. Connolly is also a regular guest on the Talk of the Town segment on WOOD radio. Jeff will also begin having regular conversations on WTCM in Traverse City beginning in April.    

“Ernie” Encore Presentation

In addition to The Healthier Michigan Radio Show, Andy Hetzel, a frequent radio presence for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, sat down this month to talk with:

  • Ken Kal, Detroit Red Wings radio broadcaster
  • Dan Dickerson, Detroit Tigers radio broadcaster
  • George Blaha, Michigan State football and Detroit Pistons radio broadcaster

Hetzel, the Blues’ vice president of Corporate Communications, discusses “Ernie,” the play by Mitch Albom about legendary Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who also served as a walking advocate for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. BCBSM is bringing back the hit play for an encore presentation from May 3 through July 28 at the City Theater in Detroit.

Photo by Jens Dahlin