Florida’s largest insurance company, Florida Blue, is ready to work with the Florida Department of Health in response to the coronavirus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced Wednesday night a new case of COVID-19 in California that hasn’t been linked to travel abroad. That means it could be the first example of community spread of the virus.
90.7 Health Reporter Abe Aboraya spoke with Florida Blue and GuideWell CEO Pat Geraghty about COVID 19.
ABORAYA: What role does a large insurance company like Florida Blue have in the response to a potential pandemic like that?
GERAGHTY: Yeah, so obviously, we’re a large player across the state of Florida. And we are prepared to work with public health officials in any way that we possibly can, getting the word out. We also have numerous primary care offices that we are either joint-ventured in or we own outright. And so getting the messaging there and making sure that we’re doing everything we can on the prevention level and making sure that the state understands our availability to help is our biggest country contribution, if you will, to this issue.
ABORAYA: And how about on a potential response side as opposed to the prevention side? What role would Florida Blue play in that?
GERAGHTY: So we stand ready to help the state and being available to bring whatever services are necessary to the marketplace. To be screening in various various facilities, and and certainly be part of the information network, if you will, about getting the public aware, informed. We have great channels to all of our membership, and we would be certainly using those channels to make sure our membership is well aware of what the state public health officials would like to have happen and make sure we’re a partner in getting that done.
ABORAYA: One of the things that CDC has been stressing recently is for employers to have some plans in place in case daycares or schools are shut down, what to do if people are coming to work sick and maybe making a bit more accessible for people to work from home. What are some of the things that that Florida Blue are doing on those fronts?
GERAGHTY: Yeah, so, the good news, I guess, is that in a state like Florida, where you have hurricanes, we have preparedness plans in place, and we extensively use work at home. We have people that work at home right now on an everyday basis. But we have the ability to have most of our staff work from home if that’s necessary. And when we’ve had these large hurricanes that have come down the middle of the state, that has caused the number of our folks to work from home to have good communication networks around that. So we’re prepared, we have an emergency plan that allows for our folks to be in contact, understand what the guidelines are for the organization and to be able to be remote.
ABORAYA: So you have plans, and they’ve been tested.
GERAGHTY: Yes, absolutely.
ABORAYA: One of the concerns that has come out recently about COVID 19 is the economic impact, and particularly in Florida, where our economy is so dependent on tourism. And so if you have an economic impact that slows down or maybe there’s an outbreak in Florida that scares away visitors that could have a major economic impact. What plans dooes Florida Blue have if there’s a big economic impact from those?
GERAGHTY: Yeah, so there’s a couple of different ways to look at economic impact. One would be the health and well being of the people in the state. I mean, at this point, it is a fraction of what flu has meant to us in terms of illness and mortality. So at this point, it isn’t that those kinds of levels. Could it be, somewhere else down the road? It’s possible. And it certainly can, on the scare side, impact the economy. From the standpoint of impact in the economy, we would work our way through that. It’s also one of the reasons why organizations have some reserves that lets them navigate through periods of time where there are concerns economically. I think we’re prepared to endure that. And I think we’re prepared to work with our membership to make sure that we do the right things to help them stay covered, get access to care, and be a very reliable partner as we all as a community navigate through this health event.
ABORAYA: You said being a community partner. What would be some of the concrete things that Florida Blue would be able to do?
GERAGHTY: Well, we have retail centers all across the state. We have a communication network all across the state. If you think about our communication network, that involves providers of care, both the ones that we own or joint-ventures or have contracts with. We have networks of agents who work with us across the state. So we have ways to communicate with our community partners, with business partners. So we can communicate all across the state. So one of the key things on anything of this nature is how does the word get out to people? And how do they stay as best informed as possible, we can be a big agent of helping people be informed. We then have facilities across the state, we can make those facilities available for dispensing care where it’s needed. And so we’ve got lots of locations, as I’ve mentioned, that can be part of the dispensing of care. We can be part of the education effort. We have many, many people in our organization who are clinical, and so they can be a partner in the process, the Department of Health has only but so many people. And they’re going to have to leverage skills and talents across the state. And we would stand ready as one of the partners who could help them get that message out.
ABORAYA: Just more broadly, I guess, is this something that you’re worried about?
GERAGHTY: You know, we’re always concerned about things of this nature. The potential of a pandemic is certainly something that is on our radar. We do a risk management program at all times and think about what are the big events that could happen. So I think it’s only appropriate to be concerned about it. I don’t think it gets to the place where we’re panicked about it. We don’t believe that it’s going to be overwhelming. We do believe that it can be contained and controlled. And we think we can do that through education being prepared and taking the right steps in partnership with the Department of Health, because they really need to call the shots around the public health implications of the coronavirus.
WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, a statewide collaborative reporting on health care.
Health reporting on WMFE is supported in part by AdventHealth.