Penny Shaffer reflects on Florida Blue's 75th

Posted on Apr 19th 2019 by Penny Shaffer

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A few weeks ago, I attended a health care conference in South Florida. Nearly 1,000 people participated in the annual event, including leading healthcare executives from around the world. I enjoyed seeing other leaders I know, meeting new people, and talking about where healthcare is headed.   More than anything I heard that day, what I will remember most is the person who found me amongst the large crowd to say “thank you” for my suggesting she visit a Florida Blue Center.  I had mentioned this resource to her at a community event late last year. Florida Blue actually has more than 20 of these Centers across the state. They are open to everyone, Florida Blue member or not. Since we opened our first location ten years ago, I’ve sent friends and family and community leaders for a truly unique experience -- personalized, face-to-face care support from an insurance company.

I joined Florida Blue 13 years ago, back when we were just the state’s oldest and largest health insurance company (which we still are). I say just, because as healthcare has undergone a transformation over the last decade (and continues to do so), so too has Florida Blue. As a health solutions company, we do so much more than coordinate care for members and process claims. As a not-for-profit health leader, we’ve always done more. Our Florida Blue Foundation and our company overall have always been mission-driven and supported communities across the state. But, over the last 10 years, we have been focused like never before on driving change, leading the conversation, and on investing in products and solutions and technology that will improve access, lower costs, and improve the quality of care.

The mission of Florida Blue is simple, yet bold – to help people and communities achieve better health. I think about that every day while driving across my 8-county region. I’m humbled and proud to work with and for a team of people committed to that mission. Our job is to work with all our stakeholders – providers, agents, community organizations, policymakers and so many others who share our commitment to our customers and the community.  Healthcare is complex and costly and I believe we have an obligation to make it more accessible and affordable, and easier to navigate. 

Going back to that woman who approached me at the recent health conference, she had visited a Florida Blue Center for the first time during the most recent open enrollment period. She had driven many times by our location near Sawgrass Mills, not realizing what it was.  That location in Sunrise is actually one of nine in South Florida and she had brought her parents into the Center back in December, at my suggestion.  Both in their 80s, it was time for her parents to review their Medicare policies and they were confused by all the options.  They found a “friendly face” who helped them select the plan that met their needs and budget.  They also now have a neighborhood place where they can visit any time with questions, meet with a nurse, or get help finding care. Their daughter, the one who approached me, lives in Miami and has gone into the Florida Blue Center closer to her house to take one of our free yoga classes.  Her Center also facilitated an appointment with a new primary care doctor at our nearby Sanitas Medical Center.  Sanitas also has locations across South Florida and serves Florida Blue members in with primary, specialty and urgent care all under one roof.

Sanitas and our Florida Blue Centers are just two of the huge developments I’ve witnessed over the last decade or so. When I first joined the company, I had a Blackberry and thought it was the most amazing device. Now, my smartphone not only helps me book a hotel room or restaurant, see photos of my nieces and nephews, and keep up with news and weather, but it also helps me with health navigation. The Florida Blue App offers “Know Before You Go” where I can find doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, labs and diagnostic centers and see how much things will cost based upon my personal health plan and benefits.  I know that many of the leading health care companies are investing in technology and the digital experience, and that we’re only just beginning to realize what our smartphones and smartwatches can and will do.

As we look to the future, I am not just reflecting on the last few years or so, and my time of proudly working for this company.  Florida Blue is actually celebrating our 75th anniversary, officially in April.  As we have done since 1944, we are working on behalf of our members and for every community across Florida to improve their lives and their health. We are helping reimagine and redefine what health care should look like.

November may still be months away, but I’m not waiting to “give thanks”.  I’m grateful to all our partners in the community who are joining us on this journey to a healthier future. I’m thankful for the colleagues I work with each and every day. I’m honored to work with a group of leaders at Florida Blue helping drive this evolution. And, I’m truly grateful for that lovely woman who approached me at the recent health care conference. You may be only one of our 5 million Florida Blue members, but you are the reason we do what we do.  Health care, as I said, can be confusing and intimidating, not to mention expensive. There is no single thing that needs to be fixed, but there’s never been more attention on seeking solutions. I am honored to be doing my part, and to work for Florida Blue which is so committed to innovation, collaboration, evolution and transformation, and to the next 75 years of helping people and communities achieve better health.  #Grateful


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Penny Shaffer

Penny Shaffer is the South Florida Market President for Florida Blue, a leader in the state’s health industry. In this role, she leads the company’s regional plan for growing the business and the brand, as well as community, stakeholder and employee engagement. Penny is the recipient of numerous awards in health care and civic leadership, most recently the Power Leader of the Year from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Claude Pepper Award in Healthcare from United Homecare. She leads and is active with a number of area non-profit and civic groups and is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Miami.

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