Solid financial foundation allowed on-going member, customer, provider, and community support during COVID-19 pandemic
Independence Health Group, Inc., (Independence) the parent company of Independence Blue Cross, LLC, reported solid financial results for 2020 with total revenue of $21.8 billion, up $2.6 billion or 13.5 percent over 2019. When revenues are combined with claims paid on behalf of self-funded employers, Independence had health care funds under management of $29.5 billion in 2020, up from $27 billion in 2019.
Independence’s year-over-year growth was driven in part by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and a one-time financial recovery tied to funds already expended in years past under the Affordable Care Act Risk Corridor Program. The company experienced lower utilization of health care benefits in the early stages of the pandemic due in part to state mandates restricting elective care. This was partially offset by actions taken to protect the physical and mental health of the people in the communities Independence serves and to promote public awareness to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Independence also contributed $30 million to the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, the largest cash gift to the Foundation in company history, and another $10 million to the AmeriHealth Caritas Partnership.
In 2020, Independence’s expansion of telemedicine and telehealth services drove more than 2.4 million* telemedicine claims, up from just 26,000 claims in 2019. The 2020 claims totaled more than $182 million in telehealth visits. This included an exponential increase in the use of mental health telemedicine. At the height of the pandemic last spring, telemedicine use was around 50 percent of all physician visits.
Looking ahead to 2021, Independence expects increased health care utilization with a return of deferred care and continued COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccination costs.
“In this time of crisis, Independence was pleased to support our customers, provider partners, and communities, committing nearly $700 million in support when it was most needed. I am proud of the many ways our company and our associates rose to the challenge to serve the people and communities who count on us,” said Gregory E. Deavens, Independence president and CEO. “Our multi-year strategy of growth, diversification, and risk management provided the solid foundation needed to lead during an unprecedented pandemic. We are well-positioned for long-term stability thanks to careful stewardship of our members’ dollars and our capital resources.”
The company had net income of $622 million, which includes $120 million in unrealized investment gains (after-tax). In 2020, Independence saw a net income margin of 2.9 percent of premium revenue, up from 1.7 percent in 2019. The company committed 82.8 cents of each premium dollar to pay medical costs for its members’ health care. This is down from 87.2 cents in 2019 due in part to lower utilization of health care benefits.
Independence paid more than $1.1 billion in federal, state, and local nonpayroll taxes, including $310 million for the Health Insurer Fee, which was reinstated in 2020, as well as state premium taxes, and other Affordable Care Act-related taxes and fees.
CEO Deavens said: “We continue to assess the on-going impacts of the pandemic, including the return of deferred care, and embrace the on-going transformation of health care with an optimistic eye on the future. Through the purchase of our headquarters at 1901 Market Street and other actions in 2020, Independence has reaffirmed our commitment to Philadelphia. Additionally, through our support of innovations that promote healthy and sustainable communities and underscore the need for health equity, Independence will continue to meet the evolving needs of our members, customers, and health care providers.”
From the start, Independence provided critical support, information, and flexibility to stakeholders throughout the community as they navigated the pandemic. The company implemented clinical and business initiatives to support efforts to beat COVID-19, including policy changes, premium credits, provider support, donations, and more, totaling nearly $700 million in value.
In addition, Independence launched an almost yearlong multi-media public awareness campaign, Beat COVID-19, to provide critically important information to the wider community. Key to those efforts are web-based business and provider hubs and bilingual member and vaccine sites.
Independence’s COVID-19 support also included:
- Members. For its members, Independence waived costs for COVID-19-related care and support, such as diagnostic and antibody testing, treatment, telemedicine, consumer-grade pulse oximeters, and vaccine administration. Additional support went beyond benefit changes and included enhanced mental health support services; more than 12,000 Calls of Kindness to at-risk Medicare members; 26,000 proactive calls to high-risk Commercial and Medicare members with chronic conditions; and more than 20,000 free, weekly grocery deliveries through United By Blue targeting more than 7,000 Medicare Advantage members. Our Medicaid managed care affiliates rolled out a COVID-19 Tracker to engage and connect members to needed medical, behavioral, and social services. These Medicaid affiliates in multiple states supported families experiencing food insecurity through contributions, deliveries, and volunteers.
- Customers. For insured group client segments, Independence offered expanded financial support such as medical and dental premium credits totaling $45 million. The company also accepted credit card payments and offered deferred payment options.
- Providers. For the health care provider community on the frontlines fighting COVID-19, Independence launched clinical and business initiatives such as donating 700,000 personal protection masks to physician practices and clinics in underserved and disadvantaged communities, temporarily suspending prior authorizations to make it easier to care for COVID-19 patients, reimbursing for primary and specialist COVID-related telemedicine visits at in-office rates, and providing more than $50 million in advance payments. As well, Independence honored the many roles that nurses play every day — including serving on the front lines of the pandemic — through the Celebrate Caring The company received nearly 1,100 nominations, and five winners and nine honorees were recognized during National Nurses Week.
- Community. For the community, the company helped address health disparities through education and assistance by launching the Beat COVID-19 public health campaign and supporting the PHL COVID-19 Fund and the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium.
2020: A look back
In 2020, Independence found new ways to connect with members while tackling challenges beyond COVID-19, including behavioral health, the health of the millennial generation, and racial health disparities.
For members and group clients:
- CommunityLink™. Independence announced CommunityLink, a network of community-based organizations coming together to address significant health disparities for seniors through a partnership with Signify Health.
- Customer Service Champion. For large customers looking for an advanced level of support, Independence designed the Customer Service Champion product to offer high-touch, concierge-level service.
- New agreements. Independence signed two provider contracts with significant impact on the members in our region. They include a four-year agreement with Main Line Health System and a five-year agreement with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
- Provider Experience Initiative. Looking to facilitate higher quality, more affordable care and a better experience for both members and providers, Independence created a new initiative focused on strengthening partnerships with providers in the region, including a Clinical Care Innovation grant program.
In the community:
- Our Community. Our Health. Independence collaborated with The Philadelphia Tribune on the Our Community. Our Health. public health campaign to raise awareness of chronic health conditions impacting the African American community.
- Well City Challenge. Independence joined with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia to launch the Well City Challenge to find home-grown, community-generated solutions to address millennial and mental health challenges.
- Mental health. Independence partnered with the City of Philadelphia to launch the #mindPHL Together campaign to raise awareness of mental health resources; reduce stigmas; encourage Philadelphians to seek help; and offer support to those impacted by mental health challenges. Independence continued its focus on mental health by launching Know Your Mind, a public health campaign focused on depression and anxiety.
- Keystone Connection to Wellness. Independence and AmeriHealth Caritas formed Keystone Connection to Wellness with Project HOME to address the health disparities in life expectancy and infant mortality experienced by North Philadelphia residents.
- Mercy Philadelphia coalition. Independence is working closely with a coalition of regional health organizations who joined forces to transform Mercy Catholic Medical Center – Mercy Philadelphia Campus into a site focused on health equity for residents in West Philadelphia. Independence will support community-based, nonprofit social services.
- Blue Crew. Independence’s corporate volunteer program adapted to support remote and virtual volunteer opportunities throughout the region. In total, associates, family, and friends donated 4,779 hours in 2020 to support local nonprofit organizations. Independence also launched its first Blue Crew Gives Campaign to supplement community support through volunteerism with financial contributions. Associates supported nearly 900 nonprofit organizations through the campaign, and nearly 500 associates participated in Blue Crew Gives Back Days, volunteering 541 hours in just five days.
- Foundation support. Continuing its 80-year commitment to the community, Independence contributed $30 million to the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, the largest cash gift in company history, and $10 million to the AmeriHealth Caritas Partnership.
- Out of the $5.5 million in grants the IBC Foundation awarded in 2020, $1.4 million was dedicated to pandemic needs, including being the first to support the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium. The Foundation also supported the PHL COVID-19 fund and helped fund the CATE (Community-Accessible Testing & Education) mobile unit powered by the Latino Connection to provide COVID-19 education and testing in communities of color.
- Independence’s dedicated COVID-19 website was named “Best in Class” by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
- Independence earned multiple honors in the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Philadelphia chapter’s Pepperpot Awards, including for the #mindPHL Together campaign and the COVID-19 Internal Communications to keep associates informed, engaged, entertained, and supported during the pandemic.
- HRO Today awarded Independence the Excellence in Engagement Strategy Award for North America for internal efforts to stay engaged with associates during COVID-19.
- Forbes named both Independence and our Medicaid managed care affiliate to its list of America’s Best Employers 2020.
- The Philadelphia Inquirer rated Independence as one of the region’s Top Workplaces in the Large Companies category for the second straight year.
- Independence received the Regional Corporation of the Year Award by the Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council.
Through its subsidiaries, Independence ended 2020 serving 8.1 million members nationwide. In addition, the company employed more than 10,000 people throughout the country.
Independence ended the year with $3.9 billion in surplus, which ensures that the company has the resources to pay claims and keep customers secure, as regulated by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.
*Claims for Independence Blue Cross health plans and its New Jersey and third-party administrator affiliates only.