Interview with Jared Short of Regence Insurance (Part 2)

RegenceBCBSO Logo with taglineThis is part 2 of a two part interview with the president of Regence Insurance Holding Corporation, Jared Short.  You can find the first part of the interview here.

DJ: Tell me about why Cambia decided to introduce the Bridgespan brand to the marketplace where Regence has been such a successful brand for so long?

Across all four of the states we serve, individual consumers have made it clear that they want access to a consumer-friendly exchange marketplace to shop for health insurance. They want to shop for plans from carriers that understand their needs, and so we created BridgeSpan to meet those demands on the exchange.

BridgeSpan will take the knowledge we’ve gained over nearly 100 years and focus it on responding to changing Individual market expectations.   Since BridgeSpan will only offer individual products and plans we can harness all of its focus in delivering to consumers who buy coverage on their own.

DJ: Will Regence participate as a brand on the individual exchange or just via the Bridgespan brand?

BridgeSpan is our individual exchange offering, and Regence will continue to offer individual products off of the exchange.

DJ: A number of providers are not hearing from plans when it comes to contracting for exchange provider networks.  Is Bridgespan planning to use the Regence PPO network for its provider network?  Will it use all providers or just some?  How and when will providers know if they are included in the Bridgespan exchange network?

We are currently building the BridgeSpan network in Washington and Oregon. Our goal is to provide our members with access to affordable, quality care, and our approach will be directly tailored to the specific needs of each market place. While this work remains in progress, I can say that at its core is a commitment to coordinated care with the power to deliver quality health outcomes at lower costs. We have begun communicating with some providers, and will continue our outreach efforts as we complete the networks.

DJ: Some plans are looking to build close affiliations with providers as part of a larger market and exchange strategy.  Lifewise and Providence is an example that comes to mind.  I would guess that any such conversations would be private, and you wouldn’t be able to answer if I asked about them, so let me ask this broader question:  does Regence foresee closer integration with select providers as an effective strategy to mitigate against cost increases driven by the ACA, or is the approach to leverage the broad, non-aligned footprint with providers in the most cost effective way?

For years we’ve talked about the need to move the needle away from a fee-for-service world. Partnerships must be formed around quality health outcomes that lead to reduced costs. Yes, we see a need for closer relationships with providers because we see the power that coordinated and collaborative care can deliver. We’re making significant progress in this area.  Just last week we announced a new partnership between Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon and Adventist Health. This is our first accountable health care initiative in Oregon and we’re ready to move forward with long-awaited plans in Washington.

DJ: I’m aware of one plan that reminds its executive team often “Grow confident making decisions amidst the chaos.”  If we step back for a minute, what is it like navigating a health plan during this time of tremendous change and disruption?  What’s the anxiety level like?

The pressure to get it right is high, and we’re very fortunate to have an incredible team within our walls to ensure that we make the informed decisions given the rapidly changing landscape. I’ve often said that the Affordable Care Act is like a highway. It gives us a direction to head, but we’re in control of when we change lanes and where we want to drive. I’m confident that our strategy is strong and well-grounded, yet flexible to adapt the evolving dynamics that will continue into the foreseeable future.

DJ:   What are the key data points you’ll be watching for in the next 6 to 18 months, whether they relate to the exchange, off the exchange, consumer engagement, costs, providers, etc?  I’m interested in knowing, effectively, which ‘tea leaves’ you’ll be keeping an eye on.

First and foremost, we must never lose sight of health in health care. Five percent of our nation’s citizens account for fifty percent of spending. How can we help patients become healthy and then stay healthy? It’s a significant challenge, and that’s why this recent partnership with Adventist Health has me so excited.

Next, we must continue to address the rising cost of care. As a nation at least 30% of health care spending, $700 billion, is wasted annually on unnecessary care, inefficient delivery, administrative complexity, fraud and high unit costs.

Finally, in the very short-term, I will be watching participation and market demand metrics very closely. The ACA is now the law of the land and individuals and businesses have important decisions to make. In the next six to eighteen months, we’ll be there to help them navigate those options, and we’ll be watching closely to ensure that our products and services align with their needs and decisions.