Auburn Gresham native Joyce Scott, an independent representative in the financial services industry, learned of the Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans’ annual Business Enterprise Program (BEP) fair held at the Kroc Center, 1250 W. 119th St., while listening to WVON 1690 AM and immediately decided to sign up to learn more about opportunities to expand her business.

“I’m a small business owner but I want to be a large business owner,” said Scott with a laugh. “I wanted to connect with Next Level Health and some of these other healthcare providers so this gave me the opportunity to do exactly that.”

Business owner, Joyce Scott. PHOTO: Lee Edwards

The IAMHP is a membership organization of health plans that participates in Medicaid managed care in Illinois, according to its website. The BEP is an initiative through the Illinois Department of Central Management Services designed to assist businesses whose majority owners are minorities, women, or disabled United States citizens with companies that do not produce annual sales exceeding $75 million. BEP hopes to increase these businesses capacity, grow revenue, and enhance credentials, according to its website. The purpose of the fair was to assist BEP businesses develop long-term partnerships and increase the likelihood of business opportunities with health plan representatives.

Scott was not the only one with the idea to attend the fair; in fact, the event had standing room only and was filled with opportunity seekers looking to partner with a few of the biggest health providers in Illinois.

Scott said that she was “absolutely” satisfied with all that she saw and learned while attending the event. Specifically, she learned that she must be certified with the state of Illinois to be on their list as a professional services supplier.

Samantha Olds Frey, executive director of Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans, explained her organization made an effort to partner with local vendors to make sure the event was accessible to the general public.

“In this room we have vendors who are partnering with the state to serve today over 2 million people, and this time next year it will be 2.8 million people,” said Frey. “We are looking to create and foster strong partnerships with businesses that are operated by women, black and brown families because those are the people we are serving.”

Frey was steadfast in her support of Medicaid in response to the speculation that the Trump Administration and Congress will pass laws that will significantly impact the healthcare industry.

“We have to remember these are people, not just a number on a spreadsheet,” said Frey.  “We are committed to the Medicaid program and the stabilization of the Medicaid program. We believe that the expansion that has given healthcare to over 700,000 people in the state is crucial not only to those families but to the entire state. It is an economic driver.”

President/CEO of AMD Business Solutions, Lisa Harrell

Lisa Harrell, president & CEO, AMD Business Solutions, Inc., a human resources consulting firm, sat on a panel held during the fair and spoke with the Defender afterwards about how minority and women owned businesses partnering with larger corporations may impact local communities.

“A large number of the small businesses we live and breathe in our communities, we are a part of that fabric; and so when small businesses succeed in the communities, we then give back to the communities that we service, period,” said Harrell. “Holding the large organizations accountable that service these communities because we have a greater voice, we’re that touch point for them. We have to have a seat at this table so we can make a greater impact to our communities.”

Harrell responded to the notion that the Trump Administration and Congress may impact the health provider industry by stating people cannot get “caught up in the noise.” She suggested when dealing with any change: focus on what you know, acknowledge how you feel about it, take control of what you can, leave the rest alone, and execute a plan.

“For small business owners, we have businesses to run,” said Harrell. “There’s no immediate daily impact on what we do so we need to continue to run our businesses. Change is all around us, period. One of the best things about working with a small business is we’ve built up that muscle of resiliency.”

Colleen Miller, senior manager of Communications & Media at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL), provided the Defender with this statement about her company’s support of minority- and women-owned businesses:

“Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois actively seeks out opportunities to partner with minority-owned, women-owned and other diverse companies. By promoting diversity in our supply chain, we can help create a positive economic impact in the communities we serve,” said Miller. “Our Corporate Supplier Diversity Team seeks out new partners at events such as the recent Business Enterprise Program Fair held by the Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans. It gives us a chance to meet diverse suppliers face-to-face, explain our procurement process, our registration portal and generally how to do business with us.”

Miller shared that businesses interested in connecting with BCBSIL that won’t be able to attend an in-person event should visit this website for more information about opportunities: http://hcsc.com/supplier_diversity.html.

To learn more about Business Enterprise Program visit https://www.illinois.gov/cms/business/sell2/bep/Pages/default.aspx.

For more information about the Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans, visit http://iamhp.net/.

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