This week’s health care guest blogger is Katy Schultz, Communication and Advocacy Principal at #client Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

Recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic, the tragic murder of George Floyd and ongoing violence against the transgender community are laying bare inequities that exist throughout our state, country and world.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota continuously looks for ways to meaningfully address the health inequities facing communities across Minnesota. This commitment is rooted in our belief that all people, regardless of race, income, zip code or other factors, should have opportunities to live the healthiest lives possible.

For the transgender and non-binary community, the impacts of health inequities are well documented – especially when it comes to access to health care and insurance coverage. 

This topic is not new to Blue Cross. In 2016, Blue Cross started an innovative Gender Care and Service initiative with the end goal of providing more inclusive and equitable care and service to transgender Minnesotans.

Through the initiative, it became clear that transgender Minnesotans experience multiple barriers to achieving their best health outcomes. While there are numerous complex solutions to these problems, Blue Cross also discovered many simple things it could do to improve care and service for this community – and in turn, all Minnesotans.

“In the LGBTQ community, we know that transgender and non-binary people have faced significant barriers to health care for far too long – and the reasons are complex,” said Dr. Craig Samitt, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “For the past several years, we have been listening to the community and are committed to making changes to our products, services and systems in order to reinvent health care and put the customer first.”

“This work is essential, both for the communities we serve and as an integral part of our reinvention of health care,” said Ani Koch, senior program manager of community integration and leader of the Gender Care and Service initiative. “As a company, we are committed to standing with and for the LGBTQ community and improving our business to address disparities and achieve equity.”

Most recently, this initiative resulted in the creation of a Gender Services Consultant position at Blue Cross. This role is the first position of its kind within a Minnesota health plan.

Alex Jackson Nelson recently joined Blue Cross in this role, where he will advocate for the needs of transgender and non-binary members across the continuum of care, including navigating complex care systems. Through this work, Alex will help empower members in organizing their care and managing health conditions to help improve their overall health and wellbeing.

“The transgender community has long been overlooked in health care, facing discrimination and experiencing multiple inequities,” said Jackson Nelson. “I have worked as an advocate in the trans community as a community member, case manager and mental health practitioner for more than twenty years. Having experienced the struggle of navigating health systems personally and professionally, I am thrilled to be in this new role. By creating this position, Blue Cross is standing with and advocating for the transgender and gender non-binary community, working to ensure their needs are met.”

Read more about Alex Jackson Nelson’s new role here.

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