A Business View of COVID-19 from Blue Cross CEO

An interview with Tim Vines, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Tim Vines, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

What have you observed in talking with Alabama businesspeople during the coronavirus outbreak? What are their biggest concerns?

The COVID-19 outbreak is greatly impacting the business community on a daily basis. Addressing these constant changes while taking the appropriate steps to protect the safety and wellbeing of employees, customers and Alabamians remains the priority.

How are you helping?

Now more than ever we want our customers to know we are here for them and we will remain by their side during this challenging time. We want our customers to have peace of mind and know they have access to the healthcare they need if they are exposed to COVID-19 or become sick. The necessary steps have been taken to ensure our members get the right care during this unprecedented time.

We are waiving prior authorizations for diagnostic tests and covered services that are medically necessary and consistent with CDC guidance for members diagnosed with COVID-19. We have also increased access to prescription medications by waiving early medication refill limits. We’ve expanded access to telehealth, which gives our customers the option to receive their care remotely to limit their exposure to COVID-19 and other illnesses. Telehealth is being used for patient consultations and evaluations for routine and chronic health conditions that, based on the provider’s medical opinion, can be managed over the phone.

- Sponsor -

Blue Cross also has staff dedicated to address member inquiries related to medical services. Almost all of our workforce is now temporarily working from home to maintain staffing of critical business areas, allowing us to successfully take care of our members and provider partners.

What can Alabama businesses do to help themselves?

During this unprecedented time, companies want to do what is best for the health and safety of their employees and the communities they serve. Staying informed, working closely with local and state health officials and following CDC guidelines are critical. Supporting small businesses and local non-profits that are assisting those in need, particularly seniors and people with underlying health conditions, is also extremely important. These are challenging times for all of us. We must have faith and encourage one another.

What advice do you have for Alabama businesses for the next 60 days?  The next 120 days?

In the months ahead, we can’t allow these challenges to make us lose sight of our respective missions — our reasons for being here. And for all of us, no matter what industry we’re in, our customers are at the center of that mission. We need to be sensitive to what our customers are going through during this difficult time. We cannot forget they are still expecting us to deliver on our promises.

Similarly, for any business, there’s no greater resource than its people. We must take care of our employees and deliver on our promises to them. We must continue to ensure they are safe — physically and emotionally — and empower them with the resources and support they need.

As we continue to navigate this crisis, it’s imperative we maintain strong, daily communication with our customers and employees. During these uncertain times, everyone has questions and concerns. The degree to which we stay ahead of those questions by providing accurate and timely information is key to maintaining trust and strengthening relationships on all fronts.

When do you think things will get better for the Alabama business community?

There is no way of knowing how long we will feel the effects of COVID-19 and the related impact of the social distancing measures that have come with it. For now, it’s anybody’s guess as to when the Alabama business community returns to “normal.”

Like most Alabama businesses, we spent the early days of the COVID-19 challenge implementing a plan to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees and to continue to deliver on the expectations of our customers. I am proud of our company’s progress, and I am also impressed by the way our entire business community and federal, state and local governments have responded to adapt to the current situation.

Can you share a story about the challenges a businessperson faced and what they did?

One of our most challenging efforts has been equipping 99 percent of our workforce to work remotely from home. Fortunately, 1,900 of our employees already had equipment in place to work from home. But we had to set up many hundreds more to work remotely to ensure critical business areas could continue to serve our members and healthcare providers over the coming weeks.

In just a few days, our IT team successfully deployed additional laptops and equipment. It was a massive undertaking, and I am extremely proud of the efforts and outstanding teamwork demonstrated by all those who made it happen. I am tremendously encouraged by our initial response, because I know that this same level of determination, flexibility, and commitment to our customers, providers and to each other will help see us through the weeks ahead.

The latest Alabama business news delivered to your inbox