3 BIG ways our city benefits from this company’s $230 million commitment

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama
Our city is getting stronger every day. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

It’s hard to scroll through your feed without seeing an abundance of bad news, especially regarding the pandemic. However, we found some info that takes a 180 turn on the doom and gloom. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBSAL) has paid, contributed and made available over $230 million to its members, doctors and hospitals, and the community in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.  Discover how it’s positively affecting our city’s residents.

1. The Community Foundation was able to support our city’s most vulnerable

girls in hammock
The Community Foundation assisted many Birmingham organizations, including the YMCA. Photo courtesy of YMCA Camp Cosby

When you see positive things happening in Birmingham, there’s a good chance the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham (CFGB) is behind them. The organization serves Birmingham and its surrounding regions, including Blount, Jefferson, St. Clair, Shelby and Walker counties.

Their mission is to solve issues and bring positive change to the community—something Birmingham was in dire need of when COVID-19 struck. The CFGB team quickly assembled to assist nonprofits and organizations during the crisis, including the YMCA, UAB Minority Health Research Center and Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, a group of local funders, including the Community Foundation and BCBSAL’s The Caring Foundation, have met regularly to communicate about the needs we are seeing and to align our funding to have maximum reach and impact.

This kind of coordination has been essential to highlighting critical community needs, innovative solutions and coming together to strategically support our community partners.”

Gus Heard-Hughes, Vice President of Programs, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham

Helping Heal Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19

Many small Birmingham businesses benefited from the Birmingham Strong Loan Fund. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

Everyone has taken some sort of hit during COVID-19. Small businesses, in particular, suffered greatly. One notable initiative set into place was the Birmingham Strong Loan Fund. In partnership with the City of Birmingham and a program by #BHAMSTRONG, the fund helps stabilize employment, stimulate economic vitality and offset losses related to the COVID-19 crisis.

Since March 16, the fund received over $1 million in gifts from generous donors. These funds, coupled with a $1.2 million allocation from the City of Birmingham, are deployed through the #BHAMSTRONG Small Business Loan Fund to support small businesses within the city of Birmingham who have been substantially ffected by the coronavirus.

“Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s The Caring Foundation stepped up with a critical contribution to the Birmingham Strong Loan Fund. It helped inspire other donors to give and provide an infusion of support to help small businesses and the people they employ.”

Gus Heard-Hughes

Here are the facts:

  • More than 250 loan applications for $5.2M in loan requests were submitted to the #BHAMSTRONG Small Business Loan Fund.
  • 90 loans totaling almost $2M have been approved to support businesses with fewer than 50 employees located within Birmingham city limits. 
  • $400,000 of the $2M deployed has gone to minority-owned businesses; $355,000 to women-owned businesses; $100,000 to veteran-owned businesses; and $570,000 to businesses in two or more of these groups.

“As a micro-business, it means everything to have my city support me and know that I am deemed valuable to our community. I’ve been down here for 15 years. We were one of the first retail shops to open up here, trying to lead the way for downtown revitalization.

It means the world to me that Birmingham says, ‘Yes, you are an important part of the revitalization, and we want to make sure you are still here.’ I’m grateful, humbled and excited.”

Awardee of the Birmingham Strong Loan Fund 

2. Doctor visits got a little easier

Telehealth call with Dr. Carol Smith of Birmingham Allergy & Asthma. Photo via Bham Now

I don’t know anyone who looks forward to a doctor visit, even if it’s just a routine check-up. But, having to enter the office in the height of a pandemic creates further worry. Part of the funds delivered by BCBSAL went toward waiving copays and coinsurance for members when they used telehealth.  From March through July this year, member cost-sharing was waived for all telehealth.  BCBSAL continues to waive all member cost sharing for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, treatment and the related in person or telehealth office visit.

“My experience with Telehealth was great! It was nice to not have to go out of my way to go to the doctor in person. I’d say the convenience is the top benefit. I, like so many, am working from home. So, it was super easy to ‘go’ to my doctor’s appointment and ‘return’ to work quickly and efficiently.”

Danny Lee, BCBSAL member

Along with waiving cost sharing, BCBSAL also has expanded Telehealth access for in-network providers. In addition to office visit consultations by physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, telehealth also includes:

  • Physical, speech and occupational therapy
  • Behavioral health
  • Optometry
  • Ophthalmology
  • Chiropractic
  • Dental
  • Dieticians (subject to provider capability)

Convenience and accessibility were key, but the added benefit of having the telehealth appointment covered by BCBSAL took Danny’s care to another level.

“Using Telehealth definitely helped save money and alleviate the stress of paying medical fees/bills especially in a time like now. When I used telehealth, I honestly didn’t know about the BCBSAL waived fees. I was patiently waiting for some bill to come in my inbox. When I found out about what BCBSAL was doing, I was pleasantly surprised and felt grateful!”

Danny Lee

3. Healthcare became more accessible + affordable

Telehealth visits provide the personal and convenient touch of having a text sent straight to your phone when you have an appointment. Photo via Bham Now

Now, more than ever, knowing if you are in good health is at the top of everyone’s mind. The stress alone causes us to become anxious. Through COVID-19, BCBSAL continued to make healthcare a top priority so you can have ease of mind when it comes to taking care of yourself and loved ones.

During COVID-19

BCBSAL set specific strategies in place like ensuring staff be specifically available to address inquiries related to medical services and other questions.

Along with timely responses to crucial questions, BCBSAL:

  • Continues to waive prior authorizations for COVID-19 diagnostic tests and related covered services that are medically necessary and consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, for all fully insured plans.
  • From March through May, BCBSAL waived inpatient deductibles, copays and coinsurance for members with coverage through their employers fully insured with Blue Cross—if a member was admitted to an in-network hospital with a COVID-19 related diagnosis.
  • BCBSAL continues to increase access to prescription medications by waiving early medication refill limits on prescription medications and encouraging its members to use their 90-day retail or mail order benefit.
  • BCBSAL offers interest-free cash advances to rural hospitals and primary care physicians.

And that’s just the beginning! For more information, reach out to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama via their website. Or, follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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