The labor and trust market presents any company with a unique set of needs and challenges for servicing their industry. Tera Clizbe, the vice president of Labor and Trust at Blue Shield of California, joins Traci on the podcast to discuss the changing needs of labor, the challenges they face with their healthcare, and how the community came together during a global pandemic.
Some highlights from The Labor and Trust Community include:
03:22 – Aligned values with the Labor community
06:22 – A crazy year dealing with Covid
10:22 – Are trust funds thinking differently about healthcare?
17:58 – Access to affordable healthcare
21:57 – Leading the way in diversity, equity, and inclusion
This is The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast with Traci Dority-Shanklin. If you’re interested in labor and union benefit funds, well, you’ve landed in the right place. We are a go-to source for all things union benefit fund related, and we are going to bring you interviews with key decision makers and fund professionals that guide these plans. They’ll share their insights, experience, unique perspectives, all the latest developments, and tips to unlock the mysteries of multiemployer benefit funds. Time is short, so let’s get started.
Traci Shanklin 0:37
Today, my guest on the podcast is Tera Clizbe. Tera earned her degree from the University of California at Berkeley, where she majored in American Studies and labor relations. She is the vice president of the Labor and Trust team at Blue Shield of California, and a licensed insurance agent in California. Tera is an active member of the Coalition of Organized Labor and serves as the secretary-treasurer of the Member Health Fair, a non-profit California Corporation. So, hi, Tera, welcome to the podcast.
Tera Clizbe 1:11
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Traci Shanklin 1:13
I always like to start off with getting a little bit of information about your family, and how you became so passionate in the labor and trust market.
Tera Clizbe 1:25
You know, Traci, it’s amazing story. I grew up labor, multiple generations, labor and trust, labor family, my grandfather was an operating engineer, both grandmother’s and my mother were teachers. My father started off in the warehouse for the ILWU and then transitioned over to the UFCW. My uncle worked for the post office. I mean, it was just around me everywhere growing up in a labor household and the labor community. It was how we were raised. And something that I’m really proud of where I come from and where my roots are.
Traci Shanklin 2:01
So, we share that obviously having come from a labor family as well. So, I totally get it. It’s just in our blood.
Tera Clizbe 2:10
It is. Yes.
Traci Shanklin 2:11
Yeah. You’ve been with the labor and trust field for 25 years, what do you enjoy most about what you do?
Tera Clizbe 2:20
Well, it’s absolutely the members and helping the union members. You know, I’m in the healthcare field. And it’s something I’ve focused on for the last 25 years. It’s ironic. I had an internship working on a member service-customer service line for a labor and trust account. And it was all healthcare related. And I fell in love and felt that I can make a difference in healthcare, and working with the labor and trust clients. So, the last 25 years have been focused on what I can do for the members, what I can do to help maintain the health benefits — a level of benefits and sustainability and affordability and creating benefit plans. And then the community — working with the labor and trust leadership, high-end professionals. You know, I just – I feel like it’s an extension of my family. And I’m just proud that I get to work with so many wonderful people and make a difference in the labor movement.
Traci Shanklin 3:18
Can you tell me what your current role is, and what you’re focused on right now?
Tera Clizbe 3:22
Currently, I work for Blue Shield of California, and I’m the Vice President of the Labor and Trust Division. And it’s a dedicated division that oversees the account management and the sales of labor trust accounts in California and nationally. You know, it was – it’s a wonderful organization to work for because they have aligned values with the labor movement. And I’m excited because they had asked me to come over and build a dedicated team and a dedicated infrastructure within the organization, internally and externally to serve the labor and trust market. So, it’s a great fit for who I am, and what I want to continue to grow and accomplish in my career.
Traci Shanklin 4:05
They brought you over to build this – this team in this division, and did they have clients? Or were they looking at this as a – the labor industry as a place to potentially branch their business into?
Tera Clizbe 4:22
Yes, they did have some clients and some very substantial clients, but they didn’t have a dedicated service team. The labor and trust book of business was mixed in with the rest of the book of business. And a labor and trust account has certain service aspects that are different than the commercial industry. There’s a lot more service needs, accountability. And so, they asked me to come in and restructure that department in order to have a focus on servicing the labor and trust clients, as well as create opportunities for new business and to broaden the brand within the labor and trust market. There was a lot of branding that needed to be done. Although, Blue Shield is – been a company within California for over 80 years, the brand wasn’t as recognized as a not-for-profit with aligned values to labor. And that’s – I’ve done a lot of that work, myself and the team I’ve built just establishing that brand, that connectivity in the market,
Traci Shanklin 5:22
It fascinates me because we forget that there is such a special or unique set of needs that servicing the labor industry presents for any company. And when a company can acknowledge that and devote resources and make that commitment, I think it speaks volumes for the company and – and their understanding by picking somebody like yourself.
Tera Clizbe 5:50
Well, thank you, you know, I’m proud of the organization. And it’s been, you know, a few years of, I guess, teaching internally as well that, you know, teaching the internal aspects of the organization, the various business models and what the differences are, and why these members, you know, have this level of service needs and talking about the aspects of billing and eligibility and – and how that all differs from the commercial world. And, you know, service and accountability is key, especially in healthcare.
Traci Shanklin 6:22
It has been a crazy year, and everybody’s been talking about dealing with COVID-19. How has the coronavirus impacted your family or you personally?
Tera Clizbe 6:33
Well, I have to say that I feel very blessed and fortunate that COVID didn’t impact my immediate family. And my heart goes out to all those that COVID has impacted. I mean, I’ve seen it all around. I’ll tell you, when COVID hit, having two teenagers that, you know, younger teenagers, the fear and the anxiety that it brought on was overwhelming. And as a mother, there’s nothing in the handbook to say, “This is how you deal with a pandemic and how you deal with fear and anxiety while keeping your job and staying afloat and leading a team and making sure that you understand some of the issues and challenges that they may be going through as well. So, you know, for us, the biggest impact, you know, for me had to be with the kids and seeing the transition and the takeaways and the disappointments and the ups and downs. But then also seeing how resilient they are, and the conversations we were able to have, and the communication and just being vulnerable, as a mother, as a leader, as someone in the community to say, “Hey, we’re here together, and let’s work through this.”
Tera Clizbe 7:46
You know, my daughter, I’ll just give an example. She’s an athlete, and she’s a great athlete, and her sports were all taken from her. And that’s something she worked really hard on for so long. And I saw a shift in her personality. I saw, you know, kind of that shine that sparkle, you know, kind of diminished a little bit. And we started talking about what to do with all that extra energy and time and what can we do to help each other to get through this and raise each other’s spirits. And, you know, she took on working for a not-for-profit. She started her own web, like, I guess, I – website, I – with a bunch of friends and started talking about issues and took her energy and focused it into advocacy and being out in the community. And all of a sudden, I saw, “Wow, look at what the silver lining is. It, you know, one thing was taken away, but it opened up a whole new door and created an opportunity for her to dig deep and become passionate for various causes that she may not have had that opportunity to. So, there was a silver lining to see my senior in high school now kind of spread her wings before she jumps into her college career. But that’s something I’m really proud of and was fortunate enough to be able to navigate through.
Tera Clizbe 9:08
I know a lot of parents have had a hard time with their children and elderly care. And there’s a lot to process, the mental health aspect. And I, you know, I feel blessed, and I’m grateful that we were able to kind of navigate the waters and with a different path with her. But I have the luxury of being – working from home and our union members don’t. They’re on the front line, and they’re not stopping, and they’re putting themselves and their families at risk. And the day in/day out stress that they are feeling is something that I can’t relate to because I’m behind a computer. So, it really opened my eyes to being so much more empathetic and putting myself in other’s shoes and whether it be the healthcare providers, the teachers, the grocery clerks, those that are working on the rows just seeing like, wow, like they haven’t stopped. And thank you for keeping us afloat. Thank you for keeping food on our tables. And in the agriculture world, it’s really opened my eyes to how important the essential workers and the labor movement is to our workforce.
Traci Shanklin 10:22
What long term changes do you think are gonna emerge because of COVID in terms of the way we either think about the union number? This has been a big “A-ha” moment, I think, and especially with grocery stores that they are putting their lives at risks. And, you know, we didn’t really realize it until a pandemic hits, and then it becomes a really essential piece of something we need. Anyway, so what – how are trust funds thinking differently about healthcare, and this kind of change in the way we see the work that they’re doing?
Tera Clizbe 11:02
Well, my opinion of COVID-19 just is a new example of an old problem that we’ve had in regarding inequalities in racial and ethnic inequalities as well, and healthcare. And one of the things that I’ve noticed with our trust funds, and I think that it’s something that we should celebrate is the fact that their contracts are inclusive of all people, and race, color, creed, what – whatever it may be. And, you know, the importance of that union contract for those members has really shined a spotlight on the value of being a union employee, or a union member, I should say. And, you know, as far as the healthcare world itself, you know, I see the trust funds and the decision makers and trustees really putting a focused effort on telemedicine, on behavioral health and mental health programs, on wrapping their arms around, you know, the member centric benefits that allow members to express their concerns and themselves through healthcare digital tools.
Tera Clizbe 12:17
Maybe another example — I think there was maybe a thought that our union members weren’t really into using digital capabilities and what have you. And now we’ve seen the jump in telemedicine and the ability to touch upon behavioral health needs through telemedicine and what have you. And I definitely think that the way funds are thinking now more so. They’ve always been focused on the member, but there’s now more tools and technology and innovation that I see them adopting and looking into for their funds. An example, you know, when COVID hit, we had three funds that implemented telehealth and behavioral health programs right away. And it was something we had talked about with them prior and saying, “Hey, there’s this resource out there.” And they didn’t think there was a need, and then COVID hit and they said, “Can we implement this in 30 days?” And we said, “Of course, we can. Usually, it takes 60 days, but hey, we can figure this out.” So, you know, I think that that’s a really positive focus and shift for the members.
Traci Shanklin 13:25
Do you think that part of the reason pre-COVID it was an underutilized resource, I guess, was it because the members didn’t really know that they had it as a benefit?
Tera Clizbe 13:36
Well, I think there’s a couple things. One is that the stereotype of behavioral health, mental health, and that concern of technology, and that, you know, is being recorded or what’s happening here, and then COVID hits and there’s such, uh, we all are saying, “Wow. We feel that anxiety. We feel – it was okay to be not be okay.” And to talk about it. And, it just opened a door of more comfort level for members to be able to say, “Hey, I need some help. And I need a resource.” I think, you know, promotion is – is key. But the more we talked about it through COVID, and the more mental health was brought out in the front, the easier it was for members to adopt to this behavioral health telemedicine component, where before it was such an unknown territory and kind of unspoken in a sense, and now it was a little bit more comfortable and out in front. At least that’s my opinion. And I know for me myself, that’s how I felt. And, I know how proud and guarded our union members can be in a sense, and once they figured out it was a safe place, and it was another resource that was provided to them through their fund. We saw an uptick in the utilization.
Traci Shanklin 14:57
You alluded to the community aspect of the resources that are available through most healthcare providers. What role has community played in healthcare especially during the coronavirus pandemic? And then what role do you think community will play as we move beyond COVID, and how we continue to push these resources out to members?
Tera Clizbe 15:20
The labor and trust community is so impactful in all of our communities across the board. And you know, only 10 to 20% of health is actually influenced by healthcare. The rest are outside sources that are tied to our community where we live, access to care, the food we’re able to, you know, obtain, so many different aspects and the community is such an important part. We’ve seen, you know, especially in the labor and trust world, the food banks, and the need for additional food banks and resources and volunteer time, I see the community opening up as COVID sites for vaccines. We’ve seen the, you know, community just in so many different levels, community advocates, meaning that there’s healthcare advocates in the community that are part of the community that are helping to guide and help members, whether they be union members, or just members of the community, find resources.
Tera Clizbe 16:22
So, I think one of the things for me that I’ve seen in COVID, and I said this a little bit earlier is how our communities want to help each other, and that we are a really amazing society. And we do care and want to help each other and the labor movement specifically, I mean, I know that I have a team member that works down in Southern California. And every Tuesday, he volunteers at the Orange County Labor Federation Foodbank. And he did that because there was such a need. And as the pandemic went on, there was, you know, such a need for volunteers and help in distributing food. I know that various counties, whether it be San Francisco, Sacramento, all around, you know, all around the country, that labor is stepping up and being advocates in the community with the food bank and resources and education and vaccine sites. So, to me, you know, again, the community aspect has been another silver lining, if I could say that, to the pandemic is understanding that how important those resource – resources are for our members and for our society as a whole.
Traci Shanklin 17:35
Yeah. So, we’re nearing 100 days of Biden being in office, and you can’t really think of a Biden presidency – administration without thinking of Obamacare. So, do you expect to see any reforms or adjustments to Obamacare with the Biden administration,
Tera Clizbe 17:58
How exciting that we’re 100 days into the Biden administration, and I really feel strongly that, you know, our country is just on such a on the right track. And I’m just so proud of where we are going and how quickly we are getting there. In regards to the American Rescue Plan, you know, that reflects the biggest coverage expansion of the Affordable Care Act since its enactment. And it’s years overdue. So, you know, the legislation caps premium costs about eight and a half percent of income doing away with the previous income cap, that stopped subsidies for middle-class individuals and families. And it contains an enormous expansion of tax credits and subsidies to current and new enrollees, which is really exciting to see that piece of legislation, you know, be out in front, so early on. And we know that now, many more Americans will qualify for zero or very low-cost affordable care coverage.
Tera Clizbe 19:02
So, you know, it’s exciting to see, and I do believe that there’s going to be changes, but in a good way, you know, there was a lot of unintended consequences that the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare had in place. And I think, you know, having Biden as our leader, who is so supportive of labor, which is obvious by some of his Cabinet picks with, you know, Marty Walsh from Liuna, and our California Javier Becerra. You know, it’s just really exciting to see that he’s going to keep union members in his mind – the decisions that are being made in regards to healthcare, and we just know that it’s going to be – I feel my opinion, is that we’re going to continue down a positive path to make healthcare more accessible, more affordable, and sustainable. So, yeah, we will see you know, there’s gonna be a debate over the legislation on public option for the Affordable Care Act and Medicare-for-All. We know that there’s going to be politics involved. But at the end of the day, I think that what Biden has put forth and who he has around him, the changes that we’re going to see are, hopefully, are going to be positive. I mean, he’s on that path.
Traci Shanklin 20:22
Accessible and affordable healthcare. You know, it’s the foundation of union membership and what unions are fighting for. So, yeah. I am with you all the way. Loving what I’m seeing with the administration and feeling very optimistic about where we’re heading. And to your point, also, with the speed at which each of these issues that have been really looming are being addressed. So, really, I think foundationally a really important time in the labor movement.
Tera Clizbe 20:57
Well, and also, you know, I just wanted to add a little bit more to that, too. It’s also a important time for the youth of America to understand the labor movement and the power that the labor movement has. I think now more than ever kids around me and young adults are asking more questions because they’re seeing – we see the commercials, we hear the praise, and thanking a union member and understanding now more about those essential workers, those jobs, I believe, it’s just, you know, they’re superheroes out there through this pandemic. And now to have an administration that supports that, that understands that, and – and wants to help it – help the labor movement grow. I think it’s – it’s a wonderful thing for the younger generation to be a part of. Now, again, we haven’t had it many, many years. And, you know, since – since Obama, but I mean, Biden, especially, you know, he – he is really proud of – of the labor movement and their support and the work that they do.
Traci Shanklin 21:57
I’ve done a bunch of interviews, you know, really starting at the last year, when the Black Lives Matters movement really kind of took hold in – in a more public way, because of several unfortunate situations. But with the Black Lives Matters came a lot of conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I’d love as a professional woman to get your take on how companies, you know, can really make a commitment to this diversity, equity, and inclusion piece. And your experience with that.
Tera Clizbe 22:37
Yeah, so great question. I think, you know, we talked about social determinants of health earlier, and diversity, inclusion, and all the various inequities that occur within our society have really been highlighted. And, you know, organizations, I am fortunate to work for an organization that has – is voted one of the most ethical companies in the world, that believes in diversity and inclusion, that has various work groups to help elevate women, to make sure that there’s a voice out there. I think, you know, last year, when things were happening, and the Black Lives Matter movement was at its peak, our company recognized that we needed to stop and pause and really dive into our processes and education, and actually gave our workforce a day off to volunteer in the community, to get involved, to pause, and to think about what’s happening within our society and how we can make it a better place.
Tera Clizbe 23:46
You know, for me, it’s so important for organizations and companies to have that focus and to understand that we can’t do things the way we used to. And that change, we have to change, and we have to provide our teams and our employees and our union members, the resources and tools to be educated and to have those difficult conversations to talk about the biases that are out there to be open and honest with each other. And I do see a lot of great positive strides in that direction. And as I said earlier, the one thing that has always drawn me to the labor movement is how inclusive, the labor movement is and has always been, in my mind. You know, I think about the contracts that they negotiated and negotiate and they’re all inclusive contracts. And I’m happy to be aligned with the labor movement because that’s something that provides me additional strength and support, to continue to carry that message and to educate others. You know, it is a really important area that we need to do better at and to have those conversations and to focus on change and not go back to, you know, when the world opens up. And things happened, you know, there’s certain aspects that we cannot revert back to we have to continue to push and move forward to create a better society.
Traci Shanklin 25:10
Yeah. So, even the labor movement had to grow up where inclusion was concerned, you know, and so, I – but I think that the labor movement has often led the path to that the community of inclusion and diversity. So, I guess on a personal note, what has 2020 taught you?
Tera Clizbe 25:34
Well, a couple things. One, I think, in life, unexpected things are gonna happen. And it’s how you handle them that will make a difference, you know, to stop and pause. And to be grateful. You know, I think, like I said, earlier, there was really no handbook on how to parent or lead a team or what to do in these situations, but to have empathy and to stop and pause and put yourself in others’ shoes, and to understand that you can’t control everything, but to do the best that you can. And it’s okay not to be okay at times. You know, I think for me, personally, that’s where I’ve grown the most. And I hope to continue to grow in that area. Because I think, as you know, working moms and, you know, we tend to beat ourselves up quite a bit. And I’m doing the best I can, and will continue to do the best I can. And that every day is a new day, and every day is, you know, an opportunity to do something positive and to feel good about what your actions are at the end of the day.
Traci Shanklin 26:49
Yeah. Well said. Is there any one thing you want anyone listening to this podcast to walk away with today, in terms of their understanding of healthcare, the healthcare benefit provided, or just a personal takeaway?
Tera Clizbe 27:05
Sure. I think, you know, on a personal takeaway, you know, actions matter more than words. And we have seen the negative side of that with the last president, but we’re seeing the positive side of that now. And that within the healthcare industry, within the pension industry, with the various organizations that support these industries, in the labor movement, that actions matter. And, you know, pay attention, pay attention to those that are out there in the community. There’s a lot of amazing work being done. And it’s not just lip service. It’s true actions that make a difference. And that’s something I think we need to focus on is as an organization, as an employer, as a union. What matters most our actions.
Traci Shanklin 27:58
Yeah. Well, Tera, I don’t have anything else, I want to thank you for being one of the people who does put actions behind your passion. And thank you for all you’re doing for union members through your work with healthcare as well. So, I really appreciate your time.
Tera Clizbe 28:19
Well, thank you, Traci. This has been wonderful. And I’m really honored and thankful that you invited me here today. So, thank you for all that you’re doing and getting the message out there and highlighting some of the work that’s being done across the country. So, appreciate all your efforts as well.
Traci Shanklin 28:37
Thank you, Tera. I really appreciate you coming on the podcast today. If you’ve enjoyed today’s podcast, please subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast, or find us on any of your favorite podcast providers, or listen to us on our website, www.multiemployerfunds.com. That’s www.multiemployerfunds.com. Thanks again for joining the conversation where listeners connect with leading experts throughout the financial and investment world. Be part of the change.
And that’s it for this week’s episode of The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast. We’d love to hear from you. And if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, head over to www.multiemployerfunds.com, and let us know. Thank you for joining us and we look forward to next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai