By Darrell Beckett, BCBSTX Divisional Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing
By Darrell Beckett, BCBSTX Divisional Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Texas is powered by the energy sector. Most people know that the industry produces oil, natural gas and electricity, but it is also responsible for 96% of everyday essentials from electronics to shampoo to heart valves. The energy industry also employs more than 428,000 people and paid more than $16 billion in taxes and royalties, which help fund Texas schools, roads and first responders.
When the energy sector does well, Texas does well.
But as the saying goes, the energy industry is boom or bust. The sector fluctuates based on the price of oil and consumer demand, among other factors. In 2014, as global demand for oil and gas dropped and the supply chain shrunk, nearly half a million people worldwide lost their jobs. And during the worst downturn in half a century, no other state was impacted more than Texas. As the industry felt the pressure, companies had to innovate and come up with cost-cutting measures to stay afloat while retaining their greatest asset — their employees.
At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, we’re no stranger to helping companies solve tough health care problems. After all, we set up shop in December 1929, just weeks after the stock market collapsed and the Great Depression began. Over the past 90 years, we’ve created a legacy of developing sustainable solutions for businesses — in times of success but also when the going gets tough.
We started our dedicated work in the energy sector in 2016, after realizing many of our clients in the space were eager for solutions to one of their biggest expenses — health care costs. Companies in the industry typically offer rich benefits to their employees, including health care coverage.
Competition is stiff for these specialized workers, who range from roustabouts doing manual labor on oil rigs in rural West Texas to technology specialists who manage cybersecurity risks for major energy corporations at their headquarters in major cities like Houston.
Because of these complex dynamics, a one-size-fits-all approach to employee engagement won’t help employers provide the health insurance coverage energy workers and their families need while also reining in costs.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Energy SolutionsSM (BlueES) is our comprehensive approach to health care benefits for companies in the energy industry. BCBSTX is at the forefront of using this holistic method that includes customized analytics, comprehensive communication and engagement, and unparalleled access.
The BlueES approach to controlling health care costs begins with customized analytics. We’re able to tell what conditions are affecting a company’s employees using our proprietary data and predictive modeling. Then we can work together to address those conditions using benefit optimization, consulting and deeper data dives.
For example, using our data we were able to determine that one energy company had an increasing number of employees who were affected by musculoskeletal conditions, which can be related to weight gain. This is not unusual in the industry — anecdotally, many oil field workers say once they start working on a rig, they gain 20 pounds. Healthy food options in remote areas are limited, and many times dinner comes from the nearest gas station convenience store. We were able to work with the employer to enhance its care management program, including weight loss and nutrition tools. These programs can lower health care costs and help workers be more productive.
We also know that due to the nature of their work, some energy workers live in man camps or on oil rigs for weeks at a time. This makes communicating information about their health benefits difficult. It also means spouses make many of the benefits decisions, so they are often a secondary audience for communications. The dedicated BlueES team helps employers easily communicate with both employees and their families about their health benefits.
Finally, we provide unparalleled access for oil and gas companies and their employees. Although BCBSTX has one of the most robust networks in the state and provides coverage in all 254 Texas counties, many oil fields are in rural areas and workers can be scattered in remote locations that aren’t near an in-network health care provider. Our Virtual Visits telemedicine solution helps employees get care when and where they need it. The service, powered by MDLIVE, allows members on some health plans to have a live consultation with a board-certified doctor anytime, day or night, from the mobile app, online video chat or over the phone1.
We also continue to experiment with new care delivery models, such as our collaboration with Sanitas Medical Centers. These facilities have flexible hours, so members can see their doctor before or after work or on the weekends, and they feature staff who speak both English and Spanish2. Additionally, we are using the C1 Innovation Lab’s unique design thinking program to help the Permian Strategic Partnership’s member employers solve for access to providers and to pharmacy services.
BlueES also features comprehensive support for benefits administrators of oil and gas companies. Our Energy Client Council meetings allow clients to share best practices and glean insights from our data.
This data is specific to our customers in all parts of the industry, including companies that explore and locate energy, those that transport or store it, and those that refine it into everyday products. It also includes the services sector and other parts of the industry. We also provide dedicated employees who have experience with energy companies to serve these accounts and answer clients’ questions. And because mergers and acquisitions continue to drive the energy sector, BlueES has a seamless process for onboarding new employees quickly and successfully.
“The Energy Client Council meetings that Blue Cross Blue Shield Energy Solutions provides are the most valuable benefits forums around,” said Rod Branch, a former chief human resources officer in the energy industry. “Other than payroll, medical benefits are the second largest employee-facing spend and by far the most personal to our workforce. As HR leaders, we depend on BCBSTX for vertical benchmarking to ensure our companies are competitive within the segment. In addition, the industry connections cemented in each event are invaluable.”
In 2016, we started our work in the energy industry with 52 employer clients in Southeast Texas, and today we are proud to cover more than 800,000 energy workers across the state. With BlueES, we look forward to continuing to be the insurer of choice for the energy sector in Texas.
1 Internet/Wi-Fi connection is needed for computer access. Data charges may apply. Check your cellular data or internet service provider’s plan for details. Non-emergency medical service in Idaho, Montana and New Mexico is limited to interactive audio/video (video only), along with the ability to prescribe. Non-emergency medical service in Arkansas is limited to interactive audio/video (video only) for initial consultation, along with the ability to prescribe. Behavioral health service is limited to interactive audio/video (video only), along with the ability to prescribe in all states. Service availability depends on location at the time of consultation.
Virtual Visits, Powered by MDLIVE may not be available on all plans. Virtual Visits are subject to the terms and conditions of your benefit plan, including benefits, limitations, and exclusions. MDLIVE operates subject to state regulations and may not be available in certain states. MDLIVE is not an insurance product nor a prescription fulfillment warehouse. MDLIVE does not guarantee that a prescription will be written. MDLIVE does not prescribe DEA-controlled substances, non-therapeutic drugs and certain other drugs that may be harmful because of their potential for abuse. MDLIVE physicians reserve the right to deny care for potential misuse of services.
MDLIVE operates and administers the virtual visit program and is solely responsible for its operations and that of its contracted providers. MDLIVE and the MDLIVE logo are registered trademarks of MDLIVE, Inc. and may not be used without written permission.
Blue Cross®, Blue Shield® and the Cross and Shield Symbols are registered service marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.
2 Clinical services provided by Sanitas Medical Centers, which are independent medical centers serving individuals covered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.