Independence Blue Cross, the dominant health insurer for employers in the Philadelphia area, is establishing a nonprofit foundation designed to raise its profile as a donor to health-related programs.
IBC will initially fund the foundation by bundling its current grant programs for poverty clinics and nursing-student scholarships, plus a new "innovation grants" program for medical-records systems and other cost-saving initiatives.
IBC chief executive Daniel Hilferty told me the Independence Blue Cross Foundation is IBC's attempt to set up a miniature local version of the California-based Kaiser Family Foundation that he hopes will be a model for other Blue Cross insurers.
The Kaiser foundation is far larger, and more independent. Funded initially by millionaire industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, Kaiser spends $40 million a year on public health research and advocacy, from its $500 million endowment.
The Independence foundation, to be headed by Independence Blue Cross executive Lorina Marshall-Blake, will be funded with an initial $10 million set aside in IBC's 2010 budget, of which almost half will be spent over the next year, and the rest going for future grants.
The foundation will offer "roughly the same level of giving" as the insurer's current $1 million to $1.5 million yearly grants to nursing-student scholarships and grants at more than two dozen local nursing-education programs, and its $2 million in grants of $25,000 to $100,000 to private, nonprofit clinics for low-income and uninsured patients, Hilferty said.
In addition, it plans $1 million in new grants that improve "[health-care] access, quality, and driving down cost," Hilferty said. The first innovation grant will go to the Philadelphia-based National Nursing Centers Consortium to help nonprofit clinics in the area develop electronic medical-records systems.
The foundation will develop additional programs to support other areas of education for health-care professionals.