Blues on the Radio: the Live Downtown Games, UV safety and more in July

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is pleased to collaborate with its four Live Downtown partners (Compuware, Quicken Loans, Strategic Staffing Solutions and DTE Energy) to bring the first Live Downtown Games to life in downtown Detroit. The daily events, which celebrate the July 25, 2012 one-year anniversary of the Live Downtown program, will be a central point of discussion when Blues personalities take to the local airwaves in July.

The Healthier Michigan Radio Show

This month the spotlight is on some of the Blues’ partnerships and efforts downtown with Detroit’s Live Downtown Games and the Live Downtown initiative. Host Ann Thomas, of WJR-AM, convenes a full house of guests who all share a passion for Detroit:

  • Grace Derocha, registered dietitian and health coach, BCBSM
  • Tom Anderson, director of Wellness and Work Life, Compuware
  • Stephanie Stevenson, vice president of benefits, Quicken Loans
  • Carl Bentley, senior vice president, Strategic Staffing Solutions
  • Susan Bailey, manager of Wellness & Health Promotion, DTE Energy

The hour-long show will be available online or as a podcast after July 16, or be sure to tune in to it on the air on the following stations:

  • WJR in Detroit — 7-8 p.m. Monday, July 16
  • WJIM-AM in Lansing — 7-8 p.m. Tuesday, July 10
  • WTCM-FM in Traverse City — 9-10 p.m. Monday, July 9
  • WOOD-AM in Grand Rapids — 9-10 p.m. Sunday, July 8
  • WATZ-AM in Alpena — 11 a.m.-noon Wednesday, July 25

Tricia Keith

Live Downtown Games featured on ‘Destination 313’

Tricia Keith, the Blues’ vice president, Corporate Secretary and Services, will be a guest on Quicken Loans’ “Desination 313” radio show on WJR with hosts Paul W. Smith and Stephen Luigi Piazza, Quicken’s vice president. Daily events will take place July 23-27, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the central business district of downtown Detroit, with medals awarded daily and a Live Downtown Games champion crowned at the end of the week. (We’ll be talking more about the Games here in future blog posts.)

Listen for Keith’s appearance when the show airs at 7 p.m. Friday, July 20, or visit the Destination 313 website for a podcast version after the show airs.

On the Lansing, Saginaw airwaves

Kevin Klobucar

Joining the Blues on the Radio this month is guest Kevin Klobucar, president and CEO of Blue Care Network. Kevin chats with Johnny Burke of WHNN-FM in Saginaw and Stephanie McCoy of WITL-FM in Lansing about Healthy Blue Xtras, BCN’s new HMO Health Savings Account plan, and how the Blues work with the best hospitals and doctors in Michigan to enhance the quality of health care, reduce costs and improve health outcomes.

Tigers Radio

Andrew Hetzel, BCBSM’s vice president of Corporate Communications, joins play-by-play caller Dan Dickerson each Sunday throughout the month on the Detroit Tigers Radio Network. This month Hetzel discusses UV safety, the BCN HMO HSA plan, Keep Fit, a new individual plan from BCBSM, and more.

Photo by Girl.in.the.D

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.

Blues on the Radio: Month-Long Spotlight on Revitalizing Michigan Cities in May

In May, The Healthier Michigan Radio Show that airs on radio stations throughout the state will focus on all of the exciting developments happening in Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids that are helping to revitalize the state. Program host Ann Thomas will speak with:

  • Dan Loepp, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, about the investments made by the Blues to help boost Detroit’s economy
  • Bud Denker, senior vice president of Penske Corporation, about the many ways that metro Detroit and Michigan will benefit from the return of the Detroit Grand Prix
  • Tricia Keith, vice president, corporate secretary and services of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, about why rebuildingDetroit is such an important mission for the Blues and its employees
  • Jeff Connolly, president for West Michigan Operations and Managed Care at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, about how the Blues support West Michigan through various local partnerships and opportunities

The hour-long show is available online or as a podcast and is scheduled to air at the following times on the following stations:

  • WJR-AM in Detroit – 7-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 1
  • WJIM-AM in Lansing – 7-8 p.m. May 1
  • WOOD-AM in Grand Rapids – 9-10 p.m. Sunday, May 6
  • WTCM-FM in Traverse City – 9-10 p.m. Monday, May 14
  • WATZ-AM in Alpena – 11-11:45 a.m. Wednesday, May 23

WOOD Radio

If you live on Michigan’s west side, listen for Connolly on his regular Tuesday segment with WOOD host Steve Kelly. Connolly will discuss topics including the Blues’ Body & Soul walking challenge. This initiative brings African-American churches together in the area to compete for wellness grants. Other topics include the Collaborative Quality Initiatives (CQI) under way with Michigan hospitals to improve health care quality while lowering costs, and the role of free clinics for the uninsured.

Tigers Radio

Finally, Andrew Hetzel, BCBSM’s vice president of Corporate Communications, joins Dan Dickerson each Sunday throughout the month on the Detroit Tigers Radio Network. This month Hetzel will discuss National Nurses Week, Employee Health & Fitness Month, the Blues’ partnership with Michigan doctors and hospitals to lower health care costs and improve quality, and the Healthy Blue Xtras member program that provides special discounts to Michigan Blue Cross members at retailers throughout the state.

Photo by MeijerGardens

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.


 

Dome Magazine Profiles Blues President and CEO Daniel J. Loepp

Daniel J. Loepp’s Detroit upbringing, work ethic, ambition and “ability to read political tea leaves” take center stage in a new Dome Magazine profile of the president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The profile “Comfortable with Politics,” by business writer Carol Cain, touches on Loepp’s previous  role as chief of staff for former Michigan House Speaker Curtis Hertel. It discusses how Loepp joined the Blues in 2000, was asked to lead the company in 2006 and has emerged as a strong civic leader:

Many are surprised to learn that the not-for-profit insurance provider has 8,000 employees and an economic impact of $22 billion in the state, and ranks only behind General Motors and Ford Motor Co. in revenue. Besides providing insurance to almost five million people in the state, BCBSM has made its presence felt in downtown Grand Rapids, Lansing and the Motor City as it invested millions in facilities and moved thousands of employees from suburban locations to those downtowns.

Read the rest of the article here.

Blue Cross, Seeds of Promise Partner to Tackle Health Disparities in African-American Community

For many Michiganders there is a massive gap somewhere between the dream and the reality of health care delivery.

The growing disparities in health across diverse communities was the center of attention at Let’s Talk Health, a recent gathering of people from health care organizations, human service agencies and community stakeholders that was sponsored by BCBSM and Seeds of Promise, a Grand Rapids-based advocacy organization.

Bridging the Access Gap

By now, many Americans recognize there’s a dangerous health gap that exists between different races. And many of those at the Grand Rapids gathering put some troubling specifics to the general unease about that gap. For instance, they know that:

  • If you’re African-American, you’re 70 percent more likely to develop diabetes.
  • The death rate for black infants is 2.3 times higher than that of white babies.
  • African-Americans, while 20 percent of the population, make up 55 percent of all HIV or AIDS cases.

Engaging Community in Better Health

At Let’s Talk Health, community and faith-based leaders, health care providers, and representatives from dozens of other groups spoke about community health status, access to care, and how to improve both.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan committed to help bridge the access gap and improve health for everyone throughout the state by bringing together community partners and developing strategies to address specific community needs.

Collaborating to Find Solutions

Here at Blue Cross, we are proud to partner with organizations like Seeds of Promise and champion the open dialogue that took place at the Let’s Talk Health event. Through our partnerships with community organizations and other strategic initiatives, we are working harder than ever to help increase the access and quality of health care throughout the state of Michigan for all of its residents.

Knowing the health disparities that exist in our state, where do you believe the solutions lie?

Photo Credit: cmh2315fl

CEO Dan Loepp’s “Rx Plan for A Healthier Michigan” Featured in DBusiness

Blue Cross’ efforts to strengthen Michigan’s core cities, build healthier communities and continue its mission of providing access to quality health care in a changing economic and regulatory landscape are spotlighted in a new 16-page supplement in the current issue of DBusiness magazine.

This special section, titled “Daniel Loepp’s Rx Plan For A Healthier Michigan,” appears in the November/December 2011 issue of DBusiness.

The supplement articulates the president and CEO’s vision for the company to lead Michigan to a future of good health, economic growth and prosperity. Its six stories include features on the Blues’ various partnerships with providers (including the patient-centered medical home program (PCMH), the nation’s largest program of its kind), how the company is preparing for federal health care reform, and the company’s efforts to strengthen the core cities of Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing.

DBusiness is the most widely circulated monthly business publication in southeast Michigan, focusing on business leadership, innovation, industry trends and market forces shaping the regional economic climate.

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.

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.