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To the Future: A Message from CEO Curtis Barnett

Reflecting on 75 years

On December 3, 2023, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield observed its 75th anniversary, which recently has caused me to spend some time reflecting on the past while staying focused on the future. To say a lot has changed in healthcare over these past seven decades would be a vast understatement!

I could never have imagined the tremendous advances in healthcare that have occurred in just the past 10, much less 75, years. Thanks to new treatments, deaths due to heart disease have dropped significantly. We now have targeted therapies for treating certain cancers that are highly effective and avoid many of the harsh side effects of chemo and radiation, providing a better quality of life for those affected by the disease. And the new mRNA technology used to develop the COVID-19 vaccine is being used to create new vaccines in a fraction of the time.

Adapting with the times

Whenever I spend time with our employees here at Arkansas Blue Cross, I find that well over half are in jobs that did not even exist in our company when I started 30 years ago. Data scientists, digital designers, social workers and business analysts make up a growing part of our workforce as we seek to deliver our services and meet our members’ needs in new and more impactful ways.

We know that new technologies are emerging that will drive even more significant change in our industry and our company. We also know these new technologies must be carefully guided by humans, especially if we are going to access the creativity, curiosity and compassion required to help solve the real problems our members and communities face.

Despite all the advances, it would be easy to get discouraged when thinking about the future: healthcare costs continue to rise at unsustainable rates, the health status of Arkansans is getting worse, and we’re dealing with a growing shortage of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals that threatens to place even greater stress on our system.

Still, I find plenty to be optimistic about. Especially the “whole person” approach to care that Arkansas Blue Cross has promoted in recent years, recognizing the importance of addressing a person’s physical, behavioral, and social needs together. Our strong focus on mental health acknowledges that there is no health without mental health. And our ongoing efforts to navigate how healthcare services are paid, moving away from the traditional system of paying a fee for each service provided to basing payments on quality and outcomes are promising for our members’ overall physical – and financial health.

A continued commitment to excellence

Some things have not changed, especially the one that first drew me to work for Arkansas Blue Cross 30 years ago and which has sustained our company throughout its 75-year history – an unwavering commitment to helping create a better, healthier future for the people and communities we serve.

Here is to the future.

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