New Role Already Making a Difference for Members
Not long after Jeanne Moman began as one of the first eight community specialists for Florida Blue, she heard a heartbreaking story.
A mother who lost a child was struggling with her crushing grief. The woman needed one-on-one counseling but didn’t have reliable transportation or a computer.
“This was not just handing someone a list and saying, ‘Look it up,’” said Moman, who began in the groundbreaking role in July at the Florida Blue Center in Winter Park. “Emotionally and physically, that’s not where she was.”
Moman started looking for help while the mother was in her office. She soon found it through the United Way and helped set up the woman’s first appointment. A quick first step for a grieving and grateful mother on her path to healing.
Emma Slier has enjoyed the challenges as a community specialist at a Florida Blue Center in Jacksonville. “You’re a professional problem solver,” said Slier, a social worker since 2012.
She’s been able to find help for her clients sometimes because of her experience at the state’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities and the Department of Children and Families. For example, when someone is seeking assistance for a person with autism, Slier knows how to navigate the state system and lead people to available benefits.
The community specialists began their work in Florida Blue Centers throughout the state on July 1 after completing training.
Their impact was immediate and impressive -- $420,000 in documented assistance in the first 30 days. It also was wide-ranging, with areas of assistance including food, employment, substance abuse, and housing. There is no charge to members or community visitors who seek help from the community specialists.
Christina Barcellona, director of care programs for GuideWell Connect (which runs the centers for Florida Blue), said the range of needs that people expressed in the first month was even greater than she expected. She said there will be 18 community specialists in Florida Blue Centers throughout the state by September, in time for AEP (Medicare Annual Election Period) and OEP (Open Enrollment Period for ACA).
The role bolsters the wide range of services already available in the Florida Blue Centers. In addition to navigating customers through insurance sales and service, the offerings in the centers include a nurse, preventive wellness programs, care consulting, fitness activities, nutrition advice, and 1:1 health coaching.
Barcellona said the role of community specialist was something that developed during discussions on how to expand the care component. Clinicians had been in the centers for nine or 10 years to handle medical issues, she said, but the company realized there was a gap for emotional and financial support.
“This makes people feel like Florida Blue cares about them. We are a health solutions company, not just an insurance company,” Barcellona said.
Slier said the community specialist effort shows that health is a holistic process, beyond just going to the doctor and taking medications. It is making it easier for members to get healthy and stay that way, she said.
“I think this is going to make us stand apart from other insurance companies,” Slier said.
Moman said when she previously worked as a social worker at a specialty pharmacy, her goal was to get the price of a prescription to as close to free as possible. That’s an area she’s been focusing on in her new role, utilizing tools such as manufacturers’ programs and grants.
Moman has been successful in her quest. “I haven’t had anybody leave here mad at me yet,” she said.
Becoming a social worker was a decision that is very personal to Slier. Long before she became a community specialist, she was a neighbor to Irby and Virginia. Slier’s grandfathers died before she was born, but Irby helped fill the void. And Virginia always encouraged her to do good things.
As dementia took over Irby’s life, Slier saw the devastating impacts on him and Virginia. “Watching him decline was very difficult. I wanted better for him,” Slier said, as she choked back tears.
One day while Slier was sitting with him, Irby told her a story about a little girl who used to visit him but stopped. The little girl was Slier.
Years later, the little girl who Irby thought had forgotten about him still thinks about her friend when working on cases with memory care issues in her new Florida Blue role.
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