News Release

October 9, 2014

OHCA Contact: Jennie Melendez - (405) 522-7404 BlueCross BlueShield Contact: Ashley Hudgeons - (918) 551-3031

Oklahoma’s Largest Insurance Payers Work Together to Address Infant Mortality Health Disparities

Oklahoma’s two largest insurance payers, SoonerCare (Oklahoma Medicaid) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) are joining forces to make a positive impact on the state’s Infant Mortality Rate (IMR). The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) recently announced that the state’s 2013 IMR was the lowest it has ever been at 6.8 percent. (Source: OK2SHARE) Although the overall drop in IMR is welcome news, the data also revealed a 16.5 percent IMR for African Americans, more than double the state’s average.

Dr. Sylvia Lopez, chief medical officer for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority said, “We welcome the overall reduction. This is a result of much work on the part of the providers, the different state agencies and our SoonerCare members. Our enthusiasm, however, is tempered by the fact that the African American IMR actually increased from the previous year. We will be working with BCBSOK and other state and community partners to help lower this rate.”

SoonerCare and BCBSOK are in a unique position to bring awareness to infant mortality and the IMR health disparity for African Americans. The two organizations were the payers for 38,930 pregnancy deliveries last year – approximately three in every four babies delivered throughout the state in 2013.

"We are pleased to be working with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority on this very important topic," said Dr. Joseph Cunningham, vice president of health care management and chief medical officer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma. "As the two largest health payers in the state, it's important that we, along with other community partners, work together to address important health issues in Oklahoma. Together, we can build innovative solutions to help make Oklahoma a healthier place for our children."

The two organizations will help inform and promote resources for their combined membership, as well as the general public, on infant mortality and opportunities to improve pre-natal health, with a specific focus on African Americans. Unique to the African American population, the top cause of 2013 infant deaths was related to short gestation and low birth weight. The number one cause for American Indians, Caucasians and Hispanics was congenital anomalies.

This unique collaboration brings together a private-pay insurer with a state Medicaid agency to influence a targeted health outcome.

Community partners, leaders and stakeholders interested in participating in this initiative should contact okhealthybaby@okhca.org for partnership opportunities and join us in the conversation at #okhealthybaby.

Interested organizations and individuals may also visit the OSDH website at iio.health.ok.gov to learn more about keeping Oklahoma moms and babies healthy through the “Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility” initiative.

About Oklahoma Health Care Authority
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) administers two key health programs for the state. The first is SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. SoonerCare works to improve the health outcomes of Oklahomans by ensuring that medically necessary benefits and services are responsive to the health care needs of our members. Qualifying Oklahomans include certain low-income children, seniors, the disabled, those being treated for breast or cervical cancer and those seeking family planning services. The second program OHCA operates is Insure Oklahoma, which assists qualifying adults and small business employees in obtaining health care coverage for themselves and their families. OHCA strives to educate and engage our current 818,100 members regarding personal responsibilities for their health services utilization, behaviors, and outcomes in partnership with a state-wide network of 39,614 providers. For more information, visit www.okhca.org or www.insureoklahoma.org.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma

Throughout its 74-year history, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma has been committed to meeting the health care financing needs of Oklahomans. As the state's oldest and largest private health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma provides health care benefit plans for more than 840,000 Oklahomans. For more information, visit bcbsok.com. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma is a Division of Health Care Service Corporation (which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Texas, Illinois, Oklahoma, Montana and New Mexico), the country’s largest customer-owned health insurer and fourth largest health insurer overall. Health Care Service Corporation is a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.