January 17, 2013
Tom Canty, Vice President and General Manager, Empire BlueCross BlueShield Government, Labor and Special Accounts
When super storm Sandy rampaged through New York and New Jersey in October, Empire responded quickly to meet the needs of members who needed medical services, but were caught in the midst of the maelstrom.
For example, some members had to go to out-of-network health care providers because of office closures or their own displacement, so we removed the approval requirement and eliminated the higher rates associated with providers who were not in our network.
Others had medical records lost in floodwaters, so our Medical Management team adjusted operations to help those members. Call-in access was expanded immediately – 24/7 days– until the State of Emergency ended andearly prescription refills were approved and pharmacy co-pays waived. In addition, Empire associates also spent hours on the phones identifying members who receive personal care services or who were at high risk to ensure they were receiving the care they needed.
Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) became an especially valued resource that provided extra levels of assistance. In ordinary times, EAP provides services to help members’ lives run more smoothly: finding qualified counselors, financial planners, child and elder care providers, etc. During and after Sandy, Empire’s EAP worked overtime to help members as they attempted to cope with the impact of the storm and afterwards as many began to piece their lives back together. Among other support services and programs, EAP helped many members talk through their experiences and shared coping techniques; offered Critical Stress Debriefing group sessions; and provided linkages to FEMA and the Red Cross and referrals to community resources.
Serving our customers is always our first priority, no matter what the situation. But, in times of disaster, service to our members is more critical than ever - as the need for health care continues and often increases.