Racism Is a Healthcare Issue

  • June 18, 2020

    No longer can we allow the inequities that dehumanize Black Americans to persist. We must address the institutional and structural racism faced by Black Americans – as a healthcare leader, employer, entrusted community partner, and as individuals.

    As highlighted by the American Medical Association, racism is a health care issue. Racism impacts health by reducing access to employment, housing, education and care.

    Recent events underscore the tremendous need for all in America, including the healthcare community, to address the specific impacts of racism on health outcomes. The industry rallied in the face of a growing global pandemic. We need to bring that same urgency to addressing racism. A person’s race should not determine their life expectancy.

    As a health plan committed to providing members access to affordable, high quality care, we not only must raise our voice in opposition to racism in all its forms, we must live it.

    Since 2018, Premera has invested more than $100 million in nonprofit programs working to increase access to care for underserved populations across Washington and Alaska, with a particular focus on behavioral health and homelessness. For the communities in which we live and work, and for those we serve, this was an important initiative. Clearly, there is much more work to be done. We pledge to closely examine how we and our products and services can become more accessible to communities of color.

    As part of continued efforts, however, we also will turn the mirror on ourselves to examine and improve our own company and ways of operating, particularly with respect to diversity and inclusion.

    Last Thursday, we held a forum for Premera’s 3,500 employees to discuss racial inequality. Employees courageously shared their lived experiences and the impacts of racism in their own journeys. It was an eye-opening and heart-breaking discussion. We need to do better, which I will work to do for myself and all of Premera.

    Knowing this is just a start, we pledge the following as we embark on improvement:

    • Champion a company culture of courageous conversations, continuous learning and community involvement with the goal of creating a more inclusive and safer environment for all employees;
    • Allocate additional resources devoted to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within Premera, including implementing implicit bias trainings for all Premera employees;
    • Commit $5 million over the next three years in health equity programs, with a specific focus on supporting the Black community.

    Perhaps most importantly and despite our imperfect reality and imperfect approach, we commit not to let things go back to the way they were.

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