Creating Peace of Mind at Home

A keen interest in healthcare brought Dale Mackel to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, where he’s finding ways to help those in the state sleep easy at night knowing they’re covered in case of an emergency

Dale Mackel says his move into the healthcare industry stemmed from a desire to return to his roots in Nebraska. After having worked for Motorola for nearly five years, Mackel moved to Coventry Health Care in Omaha in October 2009, before working for Aetna and eventually landing his current role as executive vice president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE).

Throughout his corporate career, Mackel paid attention to employee benefits—particularly to health insurance for the peace of mind that it can bring to a worker. Even Motorola, he says, served as a training ground for his current role as it provided him with a perspective on healthcare plans outside of the healthcare industry.

It’s a valuable asset to have for one of the largest health insurers in the state, and Mackel says the company remains focused on its mission of leading the way in patient-focused care. To that end, Mackel says BCBSNE is in the midst of revising its strategy, which in addition to expanding its core business and continuing integrated-care delivery, will also include fine-tuning its capital deployment and focusing on more value-based information. The Nebraska Department of Insurance last year approved BCBSNE’s plan to form a mutual insurance holding company.

“We requested permission to create a mutual insurance holding company to be called GoodLife Partners Inc.,” Mackel said in a statement at the time. “The holding company structure will give Blue Cross greater strategic and organizational flexibility to pursue growth and innovation.”

Under the reorganization, Goodlife Partners gained the same board of directors as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, and the move did not affect members’ insurance coverage or premiums.   

“The holding company structure will give Blue Cross more more strategic and organizational flexibility to pursue growth and innovation.”

BCBSNE policyholders have voting rights in BCBSNE. After the reorganization, the membership interest moved to GoodLife Partners, while policyholder contract rights remained with BCBSNE.

“Successful insurance companies in the future—especially health insurance companies—must have structural, financial, and strategic flexibility,” Mackel said in the statement. “This will benefit our members, our community and the state.”

BCBSNE is doing as much as it can for its members as healthcare remains in a state of flux throughout the nation. In September 2018, the organization announced it would expand its Medicare Advantage plans to nine additional counties throughout the state, bringing the total to fifteen. The coverage goes beyond original Medicare, offering low monthly premiums as well as fitness center memberships and benefits such as dental, vision, hearing, and chiropractic plans. Additionally, one of BCBSNE’s plans includes access to the BlueCard Network, which offers coverage throughout the United States.

“Dale sees the forest for the trees—that combination of deeply understanding the details while also leading with strategic vision, a combination that’s rare among many executives,” the team at Deloitte said in a statement.

In January 2019, BCBSNE also joined with Clarkson Regional Health Services Inc. as partners in Think Whole Person Healthcare in Omaha. Think is an organization dedicated to lowering the cost of care by keeping people well and out of the emergency room and the hospital through a team approach with patients, physicians, care coordinators, pharmacists, and registered nurses working together. The clinic also has a pharmacy and walk-in urgent care.

According to Think’s data, this approach is working. For Medicare patients alone, Think delivered Nebraska’s lowest cost of care per person in 2017 at $8,798—a savings of $1,244 compared to the state average and $2,067 in savings compared to the national average. Think has one of the highest Medicare quality ratings among the nation’s 472 ACOs.

“Think has been leading the way in changing how healthcare is practiced in Nebraska,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, BCBSNE executive vice president, in a statement about the partnership. “The independent primary-care model plays a key role in Think’s success. By treating the whole person, in a coordinated effort, Think has been able to improve the quality of care and reduce costs. With Clarkson’s help, we hope to expand upon what we’ve started.”