The mission of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation is to expand access to health care for low-income and vulnerable people in the Commonwealth. We collaborate with public and private organizations to broaden health coverage and reduce barriers to care through grants, research, and policy initiatives. Our work served as a catalyst for the pioneering Massachusetts health care reform law enacted in 2006, and we have sponsored ongoing research on the law's impact. The Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization governed by a 14-member Board of Directors.
Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The Foundation recognizes that structural racism is a public health issue and that access to affordable, quality health care is a racial and social justice issue.
Commitment to listening to, learning from, and acting on input received directly from local community organizations and community members most impacted by structural racism and health inequities. We will fulfill this commitment through hosting focus groups, engaging with a Structural Racism and Racial Inequities in Health Advisory Committee, developing new and maintaining on-going relationships with organizations led by and serving communities of color. In some cases, we will take the lead on actions, in others, the Foundation will participate in activities and actions led by other organizations across the Commonwealth.
Investments, through grantmaking, in community-based organizations and people of color led organizations. Community-based organizations that serve people of color and those that led by people of color play a crucial role in bringing about racial justice in health care.
Enhance data availability and ensure initiatives are data informed. We will seek to both generate new data by race and ethnicity and promote sharing of existing data by race and ethnicity. We will use data to inform our policy and grantmaking work whenever possible; recognizing the significant gaps that characterize existing racial and ethnic data.
Actionable policy solutions. We are committed to promoting impactful policy solutions that can effect change in the short-term, while building a framework and a vision for long-term, more comprehensive solutions.
Increased participation of people of color in all aspects of our work. We will increase the representation of diverse racial and ethnic groups in grant and consultant partners, in speakers and panelists at our convenings, in fellows and speakers in the Health Coverage Fellowship, and students and facilitators in the Massachusetts Institute of Community Health Leadership program.
Self-examination and change. We will examine our internal policies, procedures, and practices to ensure that they do not perpetuate any form of structural racism but instead are anti-racist.
Internal knowledge and competency-building. We are committed to developing and deepening our knowledge of the history of structural racism and efforts to dismantle structural racism, and our expertise in racial inequities in health and strategies to eliminate them – from community members experiencing these issues, from partner organizations and through professional development and training.
Authentic partnership. We will work in partnership with grant partners while also being cognizant of and attempting to mitigate the power dynamics that are a typical part of the philanthropic relationship.
Accountability. We will hold itself accountable for adhering to these principles and develop metrics to measure our progress on these principles and our impact on structural racism and racial inequality in health.
Our Early History
The Foundation was established in 2001 with an initial endowment of $55 million from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. A year earlier, William Van Faasen, who was then CEO of the insurance company, had initiated discussions with senior leaders and members of the board about how to address the challenges faced by the state's growing number of uninsured, low-income residents. The outcome was a decision to create an independently governed, nonprofit organization that would support the expansion of health care access through research, education, policy work, and grants to community organizations.
To support the expansion of health care access at the community level, the Foundation set up a grant program with clearly defined objectives such as improving care for low-income and disadvantaged residents, helping them navigate through the health care system, and strengthening advocacy on their behalf. The early years were also devoted to gaining a complete and accurate understanding of who in Massachusetts was uninsured or underinsured, and why. Over time, our research reports and "summit meetings" helped move lawmakers, advocates, and other health care leaders toward consensus on what should be done to solve the problem. The Foundation's signature achievement in this effort was the Roadmap to Coverage initiative, that provided a framework for the discussion, advocacy, and policymaking that led to enactment of the state's landmark health reform law in 2006.
I think we developed a very good model by investing in sound, independent research and policy development, in outreach, education and advocacy, and also in the community providers that care for our most disadvantaged neighbors. What I certainly didn't foresee at the outset was the magnitude of the impact the Foundation would have, both through its grantmaking and as a catalyst for Massachusetts health reform. - Philip Johnston, founding chairman of the Foundation's board.