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August 17, 2023

Solving the health care puzzle together (Bill Gracey)

Solving the health care puzzle together (Bill Gracey)
by Nashville Health Care Council | Jan 20, 2012

Editor’s Note: BlueCross BlueShield President & COO Bill Gracey was featured on January 18, 2012 at a sold out Leadership Health Care Executive Roundtable where he discussed the payer perspective on health reform. Bill Gracey also sits on the Nashville Health Care Council Board of Directors.

When I decided to join the payer market after 35 years in the provider sector, my new colleagues said, “Oh my gosh, you came from the dark side.” At the same time, my former colleagues said, “Oh my gosh, you’re going to the dark side.” The reality is — there isn’t a dark side. Both are pieces of the same puzzle and equally responsible for serving our country’s health care needs.

More than 30 years ago, I read a book called Can Hospitals Survive by J.C. Goldsmith.  The message it delivered was relative to survival: we are all going to have to be adaptive and flexible as we go forward.

That is especially relevant today. This is a special time in the history of health care. With health care reform underway, we cannot afford for health care spending to stay at the current level. There are other countries offering better care at a lower cost. Our charge is to figure out how we deliver better care and better outcomes without breaking the bank.

Tennessee is 39th in the nation in health care. We need to get over the fried Twinkie syndrome and make this unhealthy state healthier.

However, we are faced with an inefficient and fragmented delivery system. We go for a physical and get a dozen tests. Then, if we have an emergency a few weeks later and seek urgent care, we find ourselves subjected to the same tests.

Historically, insurance decisions were based on the network, service and benefits. Now it’s all about price, price and price. In today’s hard economic times, people are focused on getting good health care at the lowest possible price.

At BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, we are committed to change in 2012. Our new mission is to provide peace of mind to our customers and communities through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living.

We are responsible for the health care of our citizens and making sure they receive it compassionately and cost effectively. To do this, we identified four shared values. The first three are typical of most companies:

  • Exceptional service to customers
  • Employees are central to our success
  • Integrity and trust always

However, we think the fourth one sets us apart:

  • Partnerships and stakeholder collaboration

Why is it different? It’s our commitment to overcoming the concept of a dark side. Health care reform will require a lot of change in all areas of the health care industry, and we all need to work together to implement it.

We are going out of our way to make sure we are working cooperatively with our providers, with state and federal government, with our employer groups, and with our members.

The Tennessee Blues plan is already one of the country’s more efficient payers, but we are always looking at ways we can be even more efficient as we prepare for the changes health reform requires. Things like the health exchange, which will change the market from a wholesale to retail model, require a major paradigm shift. It will require a different way to do business.

We are all in this together. We all have to do more with less. Our goal is to work with all stakeholders to accomplish it.

William M. (Bill) Gracey is president and chief operating officer of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, overseeing operations of the company’s government and commercial business units. He has spent most of his 37-year career as a leader in the health care industry in Tennessee. He joined BlueCross in 2010 after serving on its board for four years. Prior to that, he was executive vice president and COO of Lifepoint Hospitals.

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