Building a Stronger Michigan Starts at the Core

Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in the Mackinac Policy Conference edition of the Michigan Chronicle.

Building a stronger body starts with developing the core muscles at the center of the body. The same holds true for building stronger metropolitan regions — developing the core urban center allows for stronger, more sustainable regional economies.

At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, we believe that one of the keys to Michigan’s economic recovery is doing what we can to strengthen our cities.  By making our cities places of prosperity, we make the regions around them more competitive and hospitable to future growth.

Our company’s relocation of nearly 3,000 workers from the Detroit suburbs into the Renaissance Center is one of the ways we are seeking to strengthen not just the City of Detroit, but the region as well. With nearly 6,000 Blue Cross workers in the downtown business district by 2012, we hope to create the critical mass that attracts other companies to Metro Detroit from outside the region and the state.

Other companies — notably Compuware and Quicken Loans — were early leaders in moving workforces into downtown Detroit.  As more companies follow, we hope other businesses take notice that Detroit is, in fact, open for business.

The urbanization of Blue Cross’s workforce has been accelerating recently. In fact, by 2013, 97 percent of our statewide workforce will be located within the downtown cores of Michigan’s largest cities — Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids. This has many strategic benefits to the Blue Cross enterprise. It will help us run our business better and realize significant cost savings at a time when both the competitive climate is more complex than ever and the cost of health care remains a leading concern for all our stakeholders. Our efforts also have major positive impacts for the cities in which we are investing.

Earlier this spring, Accident Fund Holdings, Inc., a BCBSM subsidiary, moved 620 employees into a gleaming new headquarters along the Grand River in downtown Lansing. This move came as a result of renovating a historic, but dilapidated power station in the heart of the city. It was a massive undertaking fueled by partnership across the public and private sectors. It gave Accident Fund room to grow by a projected 500 employees over the next decade.

As a result, Accident Fund’s downtown Lansing office building became vacant — so Blue Cross is moving in our workers from the suburbs. By the end of these moves, BCBSM will have more than 260 of our employees in downtown Lansing. Added to Accident Fund’s employee base, the BCBSM enterprise will eventually total more than 1,300 workers in Lansing’s central business district.

Our ability to make these investments in Detroit and Lansing began seven years ago when BCBSM renovated the old Steketee’s Department Store in downtown Grand Rapids and made it our West Michigan headquarters. Again, we moved our workers into the city center from suburban locations — and strengthened a key part of downtown Grand Rapids just as it was turning a corner. The area is now thriving.

Consolidation of our workforce in Michigan’s core cities will bring thousands of additional full-time jobs to those cities, while also adding millions of dollars in wages as well as property and income tax revenues. Our most recent action in Detroit, for example, will bring $180 million in BCBSM annual payroll into the city and add more than $3 million to the city tax rolls. In our renovation efforts alone, we are bringing $25 million in wages to Detroit and a significant portion of that will go to minority suppliers.

As the Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing regions market themselves as viable destinations for companies looking to establish a presence in Michigan, they can now point to their downtowns as more vibrant, more enticing places.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan runs its business with a Michigan conscience. We want our state to grow and succeed, and we are proud to join other Michigan-based companies that believe vibrant urban centers are key to the growth and prosperity we all seek.

Daniel J. Loepp is president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and chairman of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association national board, which represents 39 Blue plans covering nearly 100 million Americans.

Photos by ifmuth and stevendepolo.

How Big Is the Impact of Health Care Reform on Free Clinics and Other ‘Safety Net’ Providers for Michigan’s Uninsured?

Much of the talk about health care reform has centered on how it will affect Medicare, individuals or private businesses. But how will it affect the organizations that provide care to those who are uninsured or underinsured?

Leaders from free clinics, federally qualified health centers, and FQHC look-alikes gathered for the first time to talk about caring for the uninsured and underinsured at the Healthy Safety Net: A Blues Symposium May 5 in Lansing, Michigan. The Blues hosted this interactive symposium to give safety net providers a chance to talk about the impact of health care reform on Michigan’s efforts to provide health care for everyone.

The symposium provided a forum for administrators, board members and medical directors from the clinics and health centers to discuss the changing health care landscape and share what that may mean to their respective organizations.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will provide coverage to many of the state’s uninsured by 2014, but there will still be an estimated 6 to 9 percent of Michigan’s population without health insurance.

So what happens next? The role of these safety net providers will likely change, but the commitment to making sure everyone who needs health care gets it has not.

“Strategic partnerships are the key to survival and success,” said Dave Law, executive director of the Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation. “And the most important partner in all of this is the patient. We need to fully understand their needs and the challenges facing them. Then we can build those key relationships and partnerships that provide overall health benefits to the underserved residents of our communities.”

Since 2005, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has granted more than $6 million to Michigan’s free clinics to secure health and dental care for thousands of uninsured and underinsured patients.

Click here to view a previously recorded live broadcast from the Health Safety Net: A Blues Symposium

The Long Road to Renaissance and the Evolution of Our Commitment to Michigan’s Core Cities

As I witness the completion of newly renovated Renaissance Center offices, the unfurling of banners and months of intensive planning become reality, I realize that I’ve never been more proud of what we’ve accomplished during my five years here as chief executive. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has officially opened its Renaissance Center offices for business, extending our downtown Detroit campus from Lafayette Boulevard to Detroit’s riverfront.

This week marks the beginning of a finale of a long and exciting journey for us here at BCBSM as we move the first of 3,000 employees from Southfield to Detroit. Coupled with the recent move of Accident Fund Holdings into its new Lansing headquarters, the journey feels especially symbolic, speaking both to Michigan’s past and its future.

The author cuts the ribbon on BCBSM's move to the Renaissance Center Monday. Loepp was joined at the event by (from left): Greg Sudderth, chairman of the BCBSM board of directors; Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano; Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; and George Jackson, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.

As a native Detroiter who spent many years in Lansing, I confess that the gratification over developments these past few months has a personal side as well. As I’ve written before, I strongly believe that Detroit is on the path to a new prosperity.

Our plan to centralize operations in downtown Detroit is just the latest focus of a years-long process to consolidate our business enterprise in core cities across Michigan. The process, which includes renovating the vacant Steketees Building in downtown Grand Rapids as office space in 2004, reached a crescendo in March, when Accident Fund, our workers compensation subsidiary, unveiled its impressive 330,000 square-foot headquarters in a renovated, abandoned power plant along the Grand River in downtown Lansing.

While different in nature, the Renaissance Center and the Ottawa Street Power Station both hold powerful symbolism for their respective cities.

True to its name, the Renaissance Center was hailed as a way to revitalize Detroit, a “city within a city,” when it opened in 1977. Yet the complex was sometimes criticized as resembling a fortress, walled off from the greater city at large, and its occupancy dwindled over the years as the city continued its painful economic decline. General Motors, which has owned the RenCen since 1996, was considering pulling its corporate headquarters from the building just two short years ago, a move that would have been devastating to the city of Detroit.

Flash ahead to today, when GM has redoubled its commitment to staying put. Our own consolidation of workers in Towers 500 and 600, once completed, will push the complex’s occupancy rate to around 93 percent. Today’s RenCen benefits from GM’s $500 million renovation in 2004 and the subsequent development of the picturesque Detroit RiverWalk, which opened up the once-neglected riverfront to public access and summer festivals.

Opening up public access to the riverfront is also part of the equation at the Accident Fund’s gleaming new headquarters in downtown Lansing, a city that has also seen its share of hard times.

I can remember when the Ottawa Street Power Station was decommissioned in the early ‘90s and how the Art Deco building cut an impressive, if dispiriting, silhouette on the city’s skyline. The massive building in those years seemed like a symbol of a disappearing industrial era. Its gradual abandonment dovetailed with the steady de-industrialization of Lansing itself, as the iconic Oldsmobile brand that defined the city dissolved.

Today, the power plant is giving rise to a new knowledge-economy era in Michigan’s capital city, having undergone an ambitious renovation. And yes, people can now walk along the riverfront behind it.

Certainly neither Blue Cross nor Accident Fund can take all the credit for these projects or all the subsequent development that we believe they will set in motion. But they speak to the power of conviction and making strategic investment in places. There are examples all around.

GM’s investment in 2004 helped physically re-orient the RenCen to the city, introduced a new retail component to the complex and helped set the stage for the RiverWalk.

Compuware gave the former J.L. Hudson’s department store site its first tenant and brought thousands of workers downtown, which eventually begat Campus Martius, recognized as one of the nation’s finest urban green spaces.

One wonders what’s in store as Quicken Loans prepares plans to move employees into the Chase Tower just across from the park.

You hear a lot of talk nowadays about economic stimulus, and there’s little doubt that Michigan could use a hefty dose of it right about now. We think that stimulus should focus on rebuilding our great cities, and we welcome our friends and business partners to join us.

It promises to be an exciting ride.

Daniel J. Loepp is president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Photo by the Detroit Regional News Hub.

New Downtown Lansing Accident Fund HQ Reflects Commitment to Michigan’s Cities

On Tuesday in Michigan’s capital city, a brawny relic that once powered Lansing’s industrial age roared back to life as a magnet for the knowledge-based economy many in Michigan say is key to the state’s future.

Appearing at a ribbon cutting ceremony March 29 at Accident Fund's new downtown Lansing headquarters were (L-R): James Agee, chairman of the Accident Fund board of directors; Steven Roznowski, chairman and CEO of Christman Co.; Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan; Elizabeth Haar, CEO of Accident Fund Holdings; and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

In transforming the Ottawa Street Power Station from abandoned urban brownfield to state-of-the-art offices for its expanding national worker’s compensation business, Accident Fund Holdings delivered a statement that will echo around the country. Accident Fund and its owner — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan — have given people who care about redevelopment, urban revitalization, environmentally sustainable construction and historic preservation architecture a reason to come to Lansing.

I lived in Lansing for six years in the late 1990s. Anyone who has called mid-Michigan home knows why the restoration of the Ottawa Street Power Station is a really big deal. Nestled along the west bank of the Grand River, the power station sat idle and decaying since 1992, its monolithic smokestack harkening back to this community’s 20th century industrial prominence as the place where Oldsmobile was born. The plant blocked pedestrian use of the Grand River’s west bank. It sits squarely between the beautiful Lugnuts baseball park and convention center on the river’s east side, and the one major downtown hotel on the west side of the river.

Both in substance and in symbolism, the new Accident Fund headquarters transforms an aging relic of Lansing’s past into a state-of-the-art catalyst for the region’s growth and future prosperity.

Preserving the Art Deco masterpiece and moving in 650 workers now and up to 500 more over the next 10 years gives another boost to mid-Michigan as a magnet for insurance and financial services jobs. Companies like Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Delta Dental Plan of Michigan, Auto-Owners Insurance and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan have headquarters and major operations in the mid-Michigan region. Blue Cross, in fact, is moving its mid-Michigan workforce of approximately 300 into the former headquarters of Accident Fund on Capitol Avenue, ensuring a stronger workforce presence for Lansing and boosting the downtown’s vitality and quality of life.

The construction team – supervised by Christman, with architecture partner HOK – employed environmentally sustainable practices, ensuring that more than 98 percent of the scrap from the project avoided landfills. Most of the construction crews were hired from Michigan companies, 106 Michigan-based suppliers and companies were involved and the permanent furniture and furnishings were bought from Michigan firms.

On March 30, the Lansing City Pulse dedicated a special section to the project. Headlined “Phoenix Risen,” the articles provide a community view of how this project came to be, and what it means for Lansing’s future.

Blue Cross is proud to add the Ottawa Street Station to our growing list of investments in Michigan’s core cities. BCBSM renovated the vacant Steketee’s department store in downtown Grand Rapids for our West Michigan operations. As mentioned previously, we are moving 300 Blues employees into downtown Lansing. And in May, the Blues will begin moving 3,000 workers into downtown Detroit’s GM Renaissance Center from the suburbs.

These investments in Michigan’s urban cores are more than feel-good storylines – they are good for our business and save us many millions of dollars in costs down the road. But they also do feel good – because cities that buzz with workers are cities that attract more companies and more jobs for the regions around them.

Blue Cross and its Accident Fund subsidiary are here in Michigan to stay – and yeah, we feel pretty good about helping bring Michigan’s cities back.

Andrew Hetzel is vice president for Corporate Communications for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

General Motors shows off new models during Ride & Drive event in Detroit

General Motors recently brought a fleet of new vehicles to the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan headquarters in Detroit for a Ride & Drive promotional event with Blues employees.

In this video interview with Wendy Stachowicz of GM’s Vehicle Advocate Program, she talks about the company’s approach to involving its partners as brand ambassadors for new vehicles.

National Walk@Lunch Day® celebrates the power of walking

The Michigan Blues will participate in National Walk @ Lunch Day on April 30th. This event, championed by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, encourages people to take steps toward better health—even in the midst of a busy work day.
http://www.youtube.com/v/HN-Ft_-lJ_Q&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x006699&color2=0x54abd6Thirty Blues plans across the U.S. will celebrate National Walk @ Lunch Day this year. Participants are invited to extend their lunch break and walk for 30 minutes. The truth is, walking away from work—for at least a few minutes—has the potential to re-energize employees and increase productivity. Walking also keeps the heart healthy, burns calories and increases energy levels.
The Blues have a long history of encouraging people to walk. With the formation of WalkingWorks, the Blues have spread the word that walking provides significant health benefits. This Walking Works web site encourages people to begin a walking regimen and offers the tools necessary to make it happen. People can log their steps online, purchase pedometers, find health tips, and more.
So, grab your co-workers, friends and/or family members and take a walk during lunch on April 30th. And then, keep it going! Find the time to walk as much as possible. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

2009 National Walk@Lunch Day

Mid-Michigan communities get their walk on

One contest. Nine Mid-Michigan communities. Over 1000 participants. The goal? To stay active—even when Michigan’s winter weather makes us want to curl up on the couch.
This fitness contest is known as the Community Partners in Health Winter Warm-Up and it included a challenge for Mid-Michigan area mayors to get their communities walking and moving. All participating communities received grant money—courtesy of the Blues—to put toward a program that will bring the community to a healthier future.

This year, the contest ran from January 23rd through March 27th and within this time frame, the participants were encouraged to walk each Saturday at the Lansing mall. They used pedometers to count their steps and they logged their totals online using the free WalkingWorks tool. The community that logged the most steps online won first place.

The city of Charlotte came in first after logging over 33,149 miles, so they took home the largest grant. They plan to use the money to improve existing walking trails and also create new ones within their community.  
The people involved in this event were passionate and full of energy. They loved talking about walking, and the positive effect that staying active has on their life. The underlying theme for this event was: Walking Works!  
And it really does. A few years ago, event participant Rose Borst changed her life by walking and since then, she has lost over 125 pounds. Rose is one of many community members who came every Saturday within the ten week program to walk inside the Lansing Mall. Similarly, event participant, John Gillespie, lost close to 200 pounds and you could find him walking at the mall, too.
People talk about a lack of motivation to be active in winter months, but this event is proof that, although challenging, there is always a way to make it work.  

http://www.youtube.com/v/ywFN5RYjs3w&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x006699&color2=0x54abd6

In the photo: participating mayors, event coordinators and walking advocates Jon Stanton and Jodi Davis

Blues support Henry Ford’s push to drive economic development in Detroit

The embattled city of Detroit received good news this week with the announcement that Henry Ford Health System plans to invest $500 million in its New Center hospital campus.


The move is part of a nearly $1 billion proposal to establish a “Community Health Park” of retail, housing and medical office development immediately south of the hospital. The plan would create 250 high-paying jobs, Henry Ford officials say, but the project is also intended to lure other businesses, including medical device manufacturers and suppliers.

The announcement follows closely on the heels of the news that Vanguard Health Systems Inc. intends to spend hundreds of millions to purchase and upgrade the Detroit Medical Center, which we’ve commented on here.
The plan is part of Henry Ford’s bold vision for the bleak area surrounding its Detroit medical center, where the main entrance faces a neighborhood rife with vacant lots and boarded-up houses. It also signals a new direction for the Detroit-based, seven-hospital health system, which wants to play a bigger role in driving economic development in the city.
“Someone has to take the first step,” said William Schramm, Henry Ford’s senior vice president for business development. “We’re all sitting around the table looking at who’s going to invest first, and everybody is then willing to follow.”
The ambitious Henry Ford plan still faces hurdles, including lining up an extra $500 million in outside investment and securing support from the city on issues like utilities, realigning streets and tax incentives. There are also sensitive issues involving compensating residents for their homes.
The Michigan Blues feel strongly that the health of the state is closely intertwined with the health of Michigan’s largest city. You can’t have a healthy Michigan without a strong, vibrant Detroit. For that reason, we applaud Henry Ford’s bold proposal.
At Blue Cross, we’ve long embraced a mission of supporting our state’s core cities. In addition to being headquartered in Detroit, we operate offices in Grand Rapids and Saginaw, among other locations.
We’ll also be consolidating roughly 250 employees into the new Accident Fund subsidiary headquarters in downtown Lansing when it opens in 2011. 
Photo courtesy of Henry Ford.

New Healthy Blue OutcomesSM Makes Health Care More Affordable

What if there was a plan that made health care more affordable for those who actually set and achieve healthy goals? Well now there is… 
We’re proud to announce the launch of Healthy Blue Outcomes, a groundbreaking outcome-based health care plan. Healthy Blue Outcomes is a new, innovative PPO that is part of the Blues’ Healthy Blue ChoicesSM suite of products, services and resources designed to promote personal wellness and member accountability. Learn more at bcbsm.com/outcomes.


The overall goal of this new product is to improve patient health and lower costs. This goal is achieved by providing people with the knowledge and resources to take control of their health by tying financial rewards to health outcomes as opposed to participation. Lowering your BMI, quitting sm
oking and controlling your blood pressure are just a few of the healthy outcomes you can be rewarded for achieving.
Both employees and employers WIN from participating in Healthy Blue Outcomes. Employees earn rewards by meeting health measurement criteria and by completing our online health assessment. Employers gain potential savings through increased productivity, reduced employee absenteeism and lower health care costs.
Let us know your thoughts about this new product, and if you think this is a health care option you’d consider for you or your company.

What national health care reform means for Michigan Blues members

Today’s signing of health care reform legislation by President Barack Obama has many Blues members asking what the changes mean for them. While Blue Cross Blue Shield health policy staff continues to review the impact of what happened today, here is information that may be of help to BCBSM members.
 Q: I have coverage through an individual policy with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. What’s going to change?
A: If you currently have health insurance in our individual market, almost nothing will change.
Plans that were in existence up until March 23, 2010, when President Obama signed the underlying national health care reform bill into law, largely do not have to change, and nothing will require you to change plans. However, there will be some small changes that will impact your benefits.
Starting next year, you will be able to retain dependents up to the age of 26 on your policy. Additionally, no lifetime dollar limit will apply to your policy.
Since Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan already largely acts in compliance with the new law, many of the reforms will necessitate changes in other carrier’s policies, but not for ours. For example, the new law requires an 80 percent minimum loss ratio that requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical expenses, as opposed to administrative costs. Blue Cross already has an individual market minimum loss ratio of more than 100 percent, meaning we lose money on individual policies. Blue Cross also already covers most preventive services without any cost-sharing, another new requirement.
New policies, however, will have many more changes. Stay tuned to this blog for more information as it becomes available.
Q: I have Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan coverage offered through my employer. How will my policy change?
A: National health care reform largely does not impact employer-based coverage that is currently in existence. Except for a few key provisions, these policies are grandfathered in as of the bill’s enactment on March 23, 2010.
The changes coming next year include the ability to add dependents up to the age of 26 on your policy and the elimination of any lifetime dollar limit for paying out claims. If any of the dependents on your policy are under the age of 19, they will not have any of their pre-existing conditions excluded from coverage. Additionally, your plan must meet an 85 percent minimum loss ratio, meaning at least 85 percent of your premium dollars must go directly to pay for medical care costs, not administrative expenses.
However, starting in 2014, there will be many changes in the way employers provide this coverage. These changes are specific and would differ from employer to employer based on the way they currently provide coverage. Stay tuned to this blog for more information as it becomes available.