CEO Kim Keck combats racial inequities in health care practices

CEO Kim Keck combats racial inequities in health care practices
President and CEO Kim Keck (Photo courtesy of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association)

Kim A. Keck is president and chief executive officer of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, a national federation of 35 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. Keck is a respected leader in the health care industry and has built a reputation as an engaged, incisive leader. Prior to joining BCBSA in 2021, Keck served as president and CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, the state’s largest health insurer.

Why did you decide to develop a national health equity strategy?

There are many racial disparities taking place. These issues are not new. We collectively decided to put forth a national health equity strategy, starting with this idea and focusing on maternal health disparities, more specifically. The severe maternal morbidity that was mentioned is part of how we will measure the maternal health disparities.

Where can we find hope in what your organization is doing?

We are doing several things across Blue Plans in the country today. For example, Care First is a plan in the mid-Atlantic region. Moreover, funding a founding supporter comes with funding a program called “Be More for Healthy Babies.” This program is quite massive. It is a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on both racial disparities and infant mortality, and maternal health. Thus, it has programs embedded in it that range from prenatal nutrition.

We have nurses and community workers go into the homes, literally up until the baby’s second birthday to ask, how’s it going? How is the health of a mom? What kind of nutrition? What kind of care do you get? Are you living in a safe place?

What are some of the factors that explain the higher rates of severe maternal mortality for Black mothers than White mothers?

There are sometimes high underlying chronic conditions, limited access to health care, racial disparities and bias within the system. Social issues threaten women’s ability to get necessary, appropriate care before, during and after childbirth. Every mother deserves to have the best care, regardless of age, race, ethnicity and ZIP code.

Continued on the next page.

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