Press Releases

Monday, April 13, 2020

Highmark Launches Online Tool to Meet Critical Needs during COVID-19 Pandemic

Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (April 13, 2020) — Due to the increased need for access to social determinants of health resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, Highmark Inc. is providing free, open access to an online social care network, Aunt Bertha, which serves as a referral tool for urgent needs. Aunt Bertha connects people to resources that can assist with domains such as housing, utilities, medical supplies, food, government benefits, and legal services, and is available to all members and patients served across Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.

"In this critical time of need, we sought the opportunity to fast-track the development of our Aunt Bertha platform to reach those who need access to food, housing and unemployment resources immediately," said Brian Rinker, market president, eastern Pennsylvania, Highmark Health. "Our aim is to provde a more comprehensive, confidential and time-efficient referral service than traditional methods our patients and members may currently be seeking."

Highmark has been working to launch Aunt Bertha but accelerated the process because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent social needs of the community.

Thousands of nonprofits and social care providers serve their communities, but for many, navigating the system to get help can be difficult, time consuming and frustrating, especially during a time of heightened confusion and stress. Aunt Bertha allows users to find nearby community benefit organizations (CBOs)—making it easier for people to access social services in their neighborhoods, for nonprofits to coordinate their efforts, and for healthcare providers to integrate social care into their work.

The Aunt Bertha directory contains geographic-specific information on social service agencies and CBOs across the United States. COVID-19 specific resources also will be listed on the Aunt Bertha site. Once a zip code is entered, online users can filter for specific needs. There are no income restraints or financial cost to use Aunt Bertha. In addition to public access, providers, social workers and care coordinators across the Highmark Health enterprise can access information and recommend services.

"Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we're seeing people all across the country join together to help their neighbors navigate this stressful time," said Aunt Bertha Founder and CEO Erine Gray. "We're honored to be partnering with Highmark, and we continue to be impressed with their innovative approaches to helping their members and patients."

Aunt Bertha can be accessed by visiting the Medical and Community Resources page at HighmarkAnswers.com.

The Aunt Bertha initiative is one of many led by Highmark's social determinants of health (SDOH) task force. While SDOH is considered a relatively new term, Highmark has been addressing social needs that are barriers to good health for decades. In the last five years alone, Highmark has committed nearly half a billion dollars in SDOH-related initiatives, including strategic community partnerships, workforce and economic development and access to care. Most recently, Highmark announced $2 million in grants to organizations focused on helping people in need across Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About Highmark Inc.

One of America's leading health insurance organizations and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Highmark Inc. (the Health Plan) and its affiliated health plans (collectively, the Health Plans) work passionately to deliver high-quality, accessible, understandable, and affordable experiences, outcomes, and solutions to customers. As the fourth-largest overall Blue Cross Blue Shield-affiliated organization, Highmark Inc. and its Blue-branded affiliates proudly cover the insurance needs of more than 5.2 million members in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia. Its diversified businesses serve group customer and individual needs across the United States through dental insurance and other related businesses. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.

About Aunt Bertha

Aunt Bertha's mission is to connect all people in need and the programs that serve them with dignity and ease. Beyond its core search functionality, the company delivers enterprise solutions for identifying social needs, targeting interventions, "closing the loop" on social care referrals, and delivering rich reporting. The company serves more than 175 customers across the United States, ranging from healthcare systems, payers, higher education, housing developments, and more. For more information, visit www.auntbertha.com.

For more information, contact:
Anthony Matrisciano
Highmark Health
570-574-0050 (mobile)
anthony.matrisciano@highmarkhealth.org