Opinion: Let's build a healthier Michigan together

Daniel J. Loepp and Paul Hillegonds

Addressing the health issues impacting Michigan’s residents requires an approach as diverse as our home communities, stretching from Detroit to Marquette and from Sault Ste. Marie back to Kalamazoo.

That’s because health care is so personal, and each community is complex, with unique challenges that include a wide array of environmental, social and socioeconomic concerns affecting the destinies of Michiganians in every region of our state.

And in a place as diverse as Michigan, building a healthier state means delivering solutions on a community-by-community basis.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan President and CEO Dan Loepp.

This is a critical role of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund — to empower community-centered organizations, big and small, to help people live their best, healthiest lives. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which has been at work in Michigan’s local communities for 80 years pursuing better health at the local level, has been proud to partner with the Health Fund to help achieve its mission.

The histories of Blue Cross and the Health Fund are connected by the 2013 state law that enabled Blue Cross to become a nonprofit mutual insurer. To perpetuate BCBSM’s longstanding nonprofit social mission, the Health Fund was created to administer $1.56 billion Blue Cross has committed over 18 years to help the Health Fund support local organizations at work in our communities.

The Health Fund places a special emphasis on helping the most vulnerable people in every community, particularly children and seniors. Thanks to Blue Cross’ financial commitment, the Health Fund has increased access to opioid treatment and counseling services in 21 of the highest-need counties.

It’s assisted the Detroit Public Schools by helping to develop a strategy to provide evidence-based mental health services to all students, and expanded cooking and nutrition classes for children and their families affected by the water crisis in Flint.

Our collaborative efforts are helping low-income policyholders afford Medicare Supplemental coverage, through a $120 million-commitment for the Health Fund to administer Michigan’s Medigap subsidy.

The Health Fund has made local, healthy food more available and more affordable — and helped connect older adults to physical therapy and social resources.

With the support of Blue Cross, the Health Fund is working to prevent burnout in hospice workers and provide training for people as they become caregivers for aging family members and friends. And the fund is assisting the Michigan Department of Education in its efforts to create safer, more inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ students.

Together, Blue Cross and the Health Fund are helping Michigan communities where they need it most.

As Blue Cross celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, the company is in its best position yet to keep its commitment to making Michigan a healthier place, thanks to its partnership with the Health Fund. With their local efforts and expertise combined and by continuing their vital work supporting nonprofit agencies across Michigan, success can be achieved for all of Michigan’s people long into the future.

Daniel J. Loepp is president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Paul Hillegonds is the chief executive officer of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.