Highmark Inc. Is First Blue Cross Blue Shield Plan to Receive NCQA Distinction in Multicultural Health Care

PITTSBURGH, May 2, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Highmark Inc. is the first Blue Cross Blue Shield Plan to receive a Distinction in Multicultural Health Care (MHC) by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Highmark is recognized for its Commercial HMO and Medicare Advantage HMO products offered under subsidiary company, Keystone Health Plan West (KHPW). This distinction exemplifies Highmark's leadership in working to improve health care for all Americans.

"Highmark's comprehensive approach to delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate services and reducing health care disparities has impacted our members, providers and employees," said Dr. Rhonda Moore Johnson, Highmark medical director of health equity and quality. "For the past three years, Highmark has taken initiatives to reduce health care disparities to a new level, focusing on how we can learn more about our members and offering providers the resources to better serve their needs."

NCQA initiated the Distinction in MHC Program to recognize health plans, wellness, disease management and managed behavioral health organizations in their ability to address the health care needs of minority populations through the use of an evidence-based set of requirements. The standards measured to receive the NCQA MHC Distinction included direct and indirect collection and analysis of race/ethnicity and language data from members and practitioners; monitoring of access and availability of language services; practitioner network cultural responsiveness; culturally and linguistically appropriate service programs and reducing health care disparities.

"The prevalence of racial and ethnic disparities has been a barrier to improving the quality of health care of many Americans for too long," said NCQA President Margaret E. O'Kane. "Organizations achieving Multicultural Health Care Distinction are leaders in closing this gap, and NCQA commends them for their dedication."

Highmark's Keystone Health Plan West Commercial HMO and Medicare Advantage HMO initiative accomplishments included positively designating health care disparities reduction as a strategic goal; successfully collecting and analyzing race, ethnicity and language data and implementing a program to address disparities in heart disease and diabetes for the African-American population of its member base.

"Highmark believes that the primary role of the provider is to ensure individuals' health, but just as important, understand how to communicate effectively and appropriately regardless of an individual's race, ethnicity, culture or language," said Dr. Johnson. "We continuously seek information about our members so we learn how to best help them. By training network physicians and our clinical staff and customer service representatives, we have ensured that our members will receive the best care and attention on all levels."

About Highmark Inc.

Highmark Inc., based in Pittsburgh, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. Highmark serves 4.8 million members in Pennsylvania and West Virginia through the company's health care benefits business and is one of the largest Blue plans in the nation. Highmark has 19,500 employees across the country. For more than 70 years, Highmark's commitment to the community has consistently been among the company's highest priorities as it strives to positively impact the communities where we do business. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.

SOURCE Highmark Inc.

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