HEALTH AND WELLNESS
– Florida Blue –
– By Keith Landry –
Battled tested. That sums up 2020 for Tony Jenkins, the market president for Florida Blue’s Central Florida region. Jenkins and hundreds on his team have faced a year filled with extraordinary challenges during the pandemic, and the twists and turns in the COVID-19 saga just keep coming.
Jenkins reflected on this unforgettable year: “The biggest challenge has been the unknown. There is no template. There is no plan for this.”
Like leaders throughout Central Florida and the world, Jenkins has carried more weight on his shoulders this year than ever: Protect his family’s health amid the unknowns of a pandemic. Provide for hundreds of employees to work safely to offer and administer lifesaving services. Propel a massive health insurance organization forward despite the vicious attack of COVID-19 in communities across Florida.
He had help, he said, from dedicated professionals at every level within the organization: “Our Florida Blue team members continue to amaze me by their commitment to the community and to the members we serve. They have displayed during this challenging year an incredible amount of empathy, and they have shown resilience and dedication to their craft.”
Florida Blue professionals and those of its locally based affiliates like GuideWell Emergency Doctors, Sanitas Medical Centers and GuideWell Medical Center have been especially brave, sometimes facing the risk of infection themselves, Jenkins said. “The courage to stand in the face of the pandemic and still serve these individuals, to me, proves that these professionals care deeply about what they’re doing and how they do it. It is really a servant attitude. They are giving up their own thoughts about wellness to put their attention on someone else. That speaks loudly about the type of person it takes to work in health care and to work for our company.”
Jenkins recalled how his leadership team adapted earlier in the year as COVID-19 infections started to spike across Florida. “We had to pivot and adjust, and we had to think about our own employees and how to keep them safe. We allowed all of our team members to move from an office setting to a work-from-home environment.”
The team also had to decide how to provide the best care and financial support for scared members. “Our first challenge was to determine how many of our members were being affected and how we could help them. We wanted to send a message that if any of our members were identified as having the virus, we were going to pay for their testing and any type of hospitalization costs.” Florida Blue accelerated access to virtual visits, which had been planned for a rollout in 2021.
The leadership team also committed to help residents who weren’t Florida Blue members but were seriously struggling as job losses mounted. It joined forces with nonprofit groups. “We identified organizations that were on the front line of helping individuals with food shortages, rent and utilities assistance,” Jenkins said. “We contributed more than $7 million across the state of Florida to help these organizations.”
Jenkins believes the challenges of 2020 have made him a stronger leader. “It caused me to focus more on coming up with the right solutions to solve a challenge or answer a question,” he said. “It caused me to trust my team more. … Sure, I trusted them before, but it caused me to listen to different perspectives and to trust that the answers and solutions we were providing were good ones.”
Jenkins knows Florida Blue has not cleared all of COVID-19’s hurdles. “We are not out of the woods yet,” he said. “We want to be able to leave 2020 behind, understanding there still may be challenges in 2021, but we are doing the work internally to become hyper-local. Health care should be delivered locally. We want to understand the preferences and the needs of everyone we serve in each community down to a ZIP code level. … We want to help the community and others move from this environment of illness to one of wellness. We want to implement things on the front end that we can do to help us stay healthy.”
“We want to help the community and others move from this environment of illness to wellness.”
— Tony Jenkins
Photography by Julie Fletcher
As seen in November/December 2020 i4 Business Magazine