Worries about whether violent crime will have a chilling effect on businesses choosing Chattanooga and Hamilton County for their company operations almost evenly split the Power Poll community this month.
Certainly, the coronavirus pandemic tanked large swaths of the economy and intensified chronic social problems such as poverty, anxiety over policing in some communities, lack of access to health care and uneven educational opportunities.
It was no surprise, then, that violent crime was up in 2020 and 2021. In Chattanooga, violent crime climbed by 16% in the first five months of 2021 compared to 2020, police department data show.
Last month was an especially tough one, with 12 shootings, three of which were homicides. One incident — on Grove Street in the Westside community, accounted for six shootings; all of the victims were women.
BlueCross Receives High Quality Ratings for Health Plans
Commercial, Medicare and TennCare Plans Recognized
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has received high ratings for the quality of its plans across multiple business lines from key quality measurement organizations.
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) awarded BlueCross:
- 4 Stars for the BlueCross commercial plan that serves Tennesseans through both employer-based and Individual/Marketplace coverage.
- 3.5 Stars for the BlueCare plan that serves 600,000 individuals on TennCare.
BlueCross was the only commercial plan
in the state to earn 4 stars.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ratings were:
- 4.5 Stars for the BlueCross Medicare Advantage PPO plan serving Tennessee’s seniors.
- 4 Stars for the Dual Special Needs program serving Tennesseans who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.
BlueCross has also been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the country’s Best Insurance Companies for Medicare Advantage.
“At BlueCross, we do our best each day to improve the physical and mental health of our members,” said Dr. Andrea Willis, SVP and chief medical officer at BlueCross. “Earning such high marks demonstrates the value we bring as a trusted partner in health.”
NCQA evaluates health plans on the quality of care patients receive, how happy patients are with their care and health plans' efforts to keep improving. It gathers data through the annual Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey of healthcare consumers and the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS), which measures clinical performance and health outcomes.
CMS ratings are based on a review of plan operations, including members’ reported experiences and health outcomes.
In 2020, BlueCross worked with its provider partners to make telehealth more widely available. This meant members could more conveniently and comfortably have their health care needs met and close gaps in care.
BlueCross senior care teams partnered with providers in a variety of creative ways to help maintain and enhance access to quality health care. These efforts included outreach drives with doctors’ offices to encourage use of at-home colorectal screening and community-based breast screening opportunities. BlueCross also collaborated with providers and pharmacists to ensure members were sticking to their recommended care plan for prescription medications.
BlueCross Director of Clinical Care and Quality Improvement Wisterya Thompson said, “Our mission is peace of mind through better health for our members. Even during a global pandemic, we’ve been able to educate and empower our members to utilize telehealth resources, complete preventive health screenings, and get the care they need in a timely fashion.”
More from BlueCross on the Quality Ratings
In light of that, this month’s Power Poll asked members, “Do you think the spike in such violence will impede businesses from moving to the city?” Just over half — 52% — said “no” while 48% responded “yes.”
The October Power Poll survey, conducted Monday through Thursday, was sent to 198 Power Poll members and drew 92 responses from various business, community and government leaders for a 46% response rate.
The monthly survey gauges what influential business, civic, education and nonprofit leaders and elected officials are thinking. While the survey is in no way considered a scientific poll, its results offer insights into the opinions and beliefs of key decision-makers in our area.
On business recruitment, the 52 percenters have some strong evidence to back up their position.
Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce leaders recently announced more than $1 billion in capital investment in this region — even as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy.
The efforts to recruit new business and help existing business expand are paying off. Examples of the value of helping “grow your own” include Southern Champion Tray, which is investing $80 million and adding 120 jobs, and STEAM Logistics, which is spending $7 million on the historic John Ross Building downtown for a headquarters and adding 400 new jobs. New entrants include Sese Industrial, which will add 240 new jobs at Enterprise South Industrial Park, and PUREgraphite, which is investing $150 million investment — and adding 300 jobs — at the former Alstom plant in downtown Chattanooga.
To be sure, the 48 percenters have valid concerns about our violent crime and the toll on our community. For every “Best of” list Chattanooga makes, we also seem to get onto the "Top 10" lists of cities with the worst crime rates.
Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly has kicked off a process to engage the community in his search for a new police chief, a pivotal hire, which he hopes to have wrapped by the middle of the first quarter 2022.
And for its part, the City Council has taken some steps in recent weeks. Council members recently OK'd a new curfew for teens under the age of 18.
The Power Poll asked, "Do you think this change will boost public safety?" A significant 59% said "yes" and 41% said "no."
Time will tell, of course, whether a stricter curfew on teens will have a positive impact. Research on the effectiveness of curfews is decidedly mixed.
Finally, as our community winds up a crazy 2021, the Power Poll asked members about the challenges confronting them in the near term. Businesses of all shapes, sizes and missions are moving past the "let's just get through this" mode to positioning themselves for a successful pandemic rebound.
To the question, "What is the greatest challenge to your business or organization in the next six to 12 months?" 42% said "hiring qualified employees," followed by an uncertain economic environment (21%), supply chain bottlenecks (12%), and managing a hybrid at-home/in office workforce (7%. A bit surprisingly, only 4% said "inflation." Another 14% said "other."
Thanks, as always, Power Pollers, for participating — and reading.
Contact Chris Vass, public editor at the Times Free Press, at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.