Why Care Integration Is a Top Priority of This California Health Funder

Panchenko Vladimir/shutterstock

Panchenko Vladimir/shutterstock

The Blue Shield of California Foundation (BSCF) is one of the major health funders in California, which made $29.6 million in grants last year. And it consistently stands out for its bold moves for low-income and vulnerable residents. For its second-quarter grantmaking in 2017, BSCF awarded a $11.2 million in grants across the state. A key focus of this latest grantmaking is care integration.

Care integration has received quite a bit of attention from health funders lately, as we've reported. It's all about promoting innovative and value-based service delivery that focuses on coordinated care. It involves a lot of moving parts, but if any health funder is up to the challenge, it’s BSCF.

“Our state’s underserved, low-income patients and survivors of domestic violence face significant barriers to care that are magnified by a poorly integrated healthcare system,” said Peter Long, the foundation's president and CEO. “We believe that strengthening the integration and coordination of services across the safety net will remain critical as California navigates the current healthcare environment.”

BSCF gave recent grants to urban and rural safety net providers to help them exchange information through technology and interoperability projects. It's also funding new care delivery models that integrate specialty care and behavioral health services with primary care. Although challenging, this is a promising approach to address the needs of Californians with lots of simultaneous health issues.

So-called high-need, high-cost (HNHC), or "complex care" patients make up about 5 percent of the U.S. population, but by some estimates, account for 50 percent of healthcare spending. Last year, we reported on a new collaboration between five national healthcare foundations to transform care delivery for chronic and complex care patients. BSCF was not part of that group, but is clearly thinking along similar lines. Improving both the quality and value of healthcare is especially critical as the screws turn on funding for the health needs of low-income people and as chronic diseases like diabetes become more widespread. 

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The top care integration grantee in BSCF's latest round was the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, which received $427,250 to serve communities of color and underserved populations with a behavioral health equity collaborative and an integrated behavioral health policy agenda. Futures Without Violence received $300,000 for pilot testing of eConsult in a local safety net, and Social Finance also received $300,000 to test a mental health and social services model in Ventura County. A total of seven organizations received the funder’s care integration support in the most recent round of giving.

Meanwhile, other grants were awarded under the umbrellas of Value-Based Care & Patient Engagement, Domestic Violence Systems and Survivor Experience, Remaining Uninsured, and general operating support to grantmakers’ associations in the state.

In general, the Blue Shield of California Foundation supports healthcare and coverage and protection against violence. Since 2002, the funder has given out almost $396 million in grants. Please note that the foundation will not be accepting any additional unsolicited applications for the remainder of 2017.