Blue Cross Blue Shield blames racism for health inequities

Minnesota's largest health insurance provider wants doctors to read books like White Fragility and says "racism is a public health crisis."

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Racism is to blame for negative health outcomes in POC communities, according to BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) — a large Minnesota health insurance company.

“Let’s not mince words. Health inequities are caused by generations of racism,” BCBS says on its website. “The impact of systemic racism has taken a damaging toll on the health of our state. On the physical and mental health and wellbeing of thousands of Minnesotans,” the company continues.

To fix the alleged impact of racism in healthcare, BCBS maintains a position called the “Vice President of Racial & Health Equity” which is currently filled by Bukata Hayes who claims “racism is a public health crisis.” The company also provides a series of videos for doctors and the general public.

“The videos and information here establish a basic foundation for advancing meaningful conversation, education and reflection,” the company states.

One video in particular highlights the company’s support for Black Lives Matter.

“Black Lives Matter is a movement to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe by addressing systemic racism and violence against Black people,” according to BCBS.

The video continues to say the movement does not mean other people’s lives don’t matter, “instead, it brings attention to the fact that right now our society, systems and institutions act as if Black lives don’t matter.”

Another video prompts white doctors to conclude that even if they do not consciously hold racist beliefs they still perpetuate racism if they don’t actively seek to counteract the alleged systemic racism that underlies American society. It then goes one step further, claiming that the typical MLK “content of their character” standard of racial equality is not enough, asserting that doctors need to go one step further by basing their practices on “equity.”

In a related discussion of unconscious bias, BCBS defines white privilege as “the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements benefits and choices that people have simply because they are white.”

The company also publishes a reading list that contains controversial titles like White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi — both of which are highly charged titles that have generated controversy by their inclusion in school and workplace reading lists.

BCBS also addresses issues outside healthcare. One article delves into law enforcement, highlighting how black individuals make up less than 20% of the population yet experience nearly 60% of all use of force in Minnesota.

Another video talks about how “structural racism is a system that gives white people advantages over Black, Indigenous, and People of Color – like better access to education, [and] wealth.

Alpha News reached out to Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota for a comment but did not receive a response.

BCBS has about 3 million Minnesota clients and is the number one health insurance provider in the state.


Pafoua Yang

Pafoua Yang is a reporter for Alpha News. She has worked as an on-air reporter for stations across the Twin Cities.