Pam Kehaly

President & CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

by Pam Kehaly

What most notably stands out about your leadership style or what is an example of leadership success you can share with our readers?

There are always 1,000 reasons not to do something. It is much easier and more comfortable to support a path of inaction versus action. When the state reached out to request our help staffing a 24/7 drive-through COVID-19 vaccine site at State Farm, I had 1,000 reasons to say no — most notably that we had never done anything like this before. 

With a week of preparation,  we rallied more than 300 BCBSAZ volunteers daily to staff the site — from January through March — working three shifts a day; around the clock; in the wind, sun and rain. Our priority was vaccinating as many Arizonans as possible, and we were committed to changing our everyday life to support the community. 

It would have been so much easier to simply say no — however, finding ways to say yes is what truly drives meaningful, positive change. 

What impact has COVID-19 or the disruptions of the past 18 months had on you as a leader?

COVID taught me to be more aware of incremental, iterative change versus wholesale meaningful change. We all see the world through the lens of our own experience, so it is many times extremely difficult to envision the magnitude of the possible versus a version of an existing product or program. 

Most company change is iterative — we take the models that are familiar and tweak them to make them marginally different. Prior to COVID, my version of a progressive workforce strategy, for instance, was having select positions work from home occasionally. This was simply an iteration of the predominant model of working in the office. COVID allowed me to look at workforce strategy in a completely different way — it rendered my lens of experience useless and forced me to view the entire range of possibilities versus an iteration of the norm. Many things I thought I knew about culture, collaboration in a workplace setting, relationships with customers, and people’s capacity for change came crashing down. 

As business leaders, our beliefs have been challenged. We would do well to keep a learner’s mindset as we encounter a future that is forever changed. While difficult, it is hugely beneficial to take off the lens of our experience and try and look at things from a completely different perspective. 

What do you feel we can be doing as a business community to empower economic growth here?

As a business community, it’s important to embrace and engage Arizona’s startup, early-stage and innovation community. We’re fortunate to live in a growth state, and supporting these emerging companies at the grassroots level provides additional resources to promote their success. Additionally, talent acquisition is an important aspect of business growth plans. 

Since we are focused on Arizona, we work closely with customers to design and deliver health coverage needed to acquire talent in a tight job market. For example, we worked closely with the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to introduce “Cultivate” insurance plan options designed to meet the health needs of AZHCC members and their employees. 

What is new and notable for your company’s near future that will impact our economy?

As we head into the new year, at BCBSAZ we are partnering with business leaders to tackle unsustainable healthcare cost escalation. Members and employers have made it clear that they are looking for affordable health coverage and care. 

At BCBSAZ, we continue to go to bat for affordability. Currently, we are gauging against medical inflation so providers are covered but customers don’t see unnecessary increases. Another area to impact is pharmacy, both in helping members find lower-cost options and ensuring that members are taking medications as prescribed. 

Healthcare should be accessible to all, yet the cost of healthcare is out of reach for many. This is an issue that must be solved collaboratively, with everyone from the healthcare ecosystem at the table. We are actively looking for new ways to ensure health is affordable for Arizonans.

Name of Leader: Pam Kehaly
Position of Leader: President & CEO
Company Name: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
No. of Years with Company: 4
Main Local Office Address: 2444 W. Las Palmaritas Dr., Phoenix, AZ 85021
Phone: (602) 864-4100
Website: azblue.com
Number of offices in Greater Phoenix: 1
Year Established Locally: 1939
City Nationally Headquartered: Phoenix

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