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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

Health Insurer’s New Benefit: On-the-Job B.A.

Anthem Blue Cross is getting into the education business. The Thousand Oaks insurer, the California operation of national health insurer Anthem Inc. in Indianapolis, has a new program to help employees earn associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. The classes are free and can be completed at the employee’s own pace. The company has partnered with College for America, a non-profit online workforce trainer affiliated with Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, N.H. Anthem Blue Cross’ parent corporation conducted a pilot program for employees in New Hampshire that proved successful, leading to a rollout in other states, including California. Anthem spokeswoman Geraldine Rodriguez said the company sees this as an employee retention and motivation program. The company has high turnover in its customer service call centers, and when it surveyed workers about what they wanted, the answer was educational opportunities. “They are learning skills that would be useful in the company,” she said. “Every-thing taught can translate to the job.” The program offers four bachelor’s degrees and two associate’s degrees in business, communications or health care. The program piggybacks on a tuition reimbursement program that Anthem already offers. Anthem will pay up to $5,000 a year at any school, and at College for America, classes only cost $2,500 annually. To be eligible, employees must have worked at Health Net for at least six months with a minimum schedule of 20 hours a week. First classes start this month, and employees are signing up and meeting their online “learning coach” who will help them stay on track. “Because it’s self-paced, there are no deadlines and people tend to fall out,” Rodriguez explained. Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, sees the program as a win-win because Anthem is building its talent pool while employees get a degree without taking on debt. “Southern New Hampshire University’s partnership with Anthem Blue Cross will educate thousands of associates and is a model for aligning employer demand with the kind of competency-based, workforce-applicable higher education we have pioneered at College for America,” he said in a statement. Ratcheting Up ECA Medical Instruments has developed what it says is the first one-use ratchet screwdriver for use by doctors to secure orthopaedic and spinal implants in minimally invasive procedures. Jim Schultz, executive vice president at the Thousand Oaks medical device company, said the Model 300 Secure-Fast ratchet allows doctors to put in screws four to five times faster than with a regular screwdriver. The surgeon can use his experience to determine the final “tightness” of the screw in the bone, or he can use a special torque wrench made by ECA for the final twist. Also, the handheld device is designed for screws with a “cannula” or channel. Those screws have a thin hole running their length, through which wires or needles from an implant can pass. But in order to get the screws in tight, the ratchet device must also be “cannulated” so the wires can exit the screw without damage during the insertion. “Cannulated instruments are critical for minimally invasive surgeries which are very common and preferred in both hospital and outpatient settings,“ Schultz said. ECA specializes in making instruments that are disposed after one use, and the Model 300 fits that model. The company says disposable tools reduce infection and costs for hospitals by eliminating the need for sterilization. The Model 300 costs between $150 and $200 each, depending on volume. Montrose Urgent Care Glendale Adventist Medical Center has opened an urgent care facility in Montrose. The 6,000-square-foot center has 14 examination rooms and can treat fractures, cuts needing stiches, infections and other minor wounds. It also includes space for a permanent primary care doctor, who can become the regular doctor for nearby residents or act as back-up. Roland Fargo, president of medical network services in Southern California for Adventist Health, the hospital’s Roseville-based parent, said market research showed a need for an urgent care in the foothill community. The expansion also fit with the non-profit’s strategic plans based on the Affordable Care Act, which encourages providers to avoid expensive hospital admissions. “We have made a commitment to moving away from being known as just a hospital system, and to keep people healthy and well before they get to the hospital,” he said. Glendale Adventist already has three other clinics in Verdugo Hills, Glendale and Burbank. Other hospital systems that have opened clinics in the greater Valley include UCLA Health and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Staff Writer Joel Russell can be reached at (818) 316-3124 or jrussell@sfvbj.com.

Joel Russel
Joel Russel
Joel Russell joined the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2006 as a reporter. He transferred to sister publication San Fernando Valley Business Journal in 2012 as managing editor. Since he assumed the position of editor in 2015, the Business Journal has been recognized four times as the best small-circulation tabloid business publication in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publishers. Previously, he worked as senior editor at Hispanic Business magazine and editor of Business Mexico.

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