Sara Corrough Teppema, FSA 2008, MAAA
Health Care Service Corporation (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas)
DVP and Actuary, Provider Payment Innovation and Analytics
Brief description of the type of work you currently do:
I design value-based care models for payment to HCSC’s provider partners
Primary Area of Practice:
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Why do you want to be on the Board?
I enjoy working to advance our profession and have served in several SOA leadership roles, including chair of the Research Executive Committee and the public health task force; these experiences would bring additional leadership depth to the board. I am especially passionate about research, and over the past several years (including during my four years on the SOA staff) I have worked to raise the profile of SOA research, which I would continue at the board level. In addition, I want to be part of the solution to reclaim data science and InsurTech as actuarial disciplines.
Ethics and Transparency
Ethics and transparency are essential to professional practice and service on the Board. How have you demonstrated ethics and transparency in the past? How will your own ethics and views on transparency influence your decisions and actions as a member of the SOA Board?
My career has spanned many facets of health practice and data analysis, and many types of work environments, but I have been fortunate in that I have not encountered many ethical dilemmas. I attribute this in part to the fact that as a younger actuary, I worked for and among exceptional actuaries who modeled ethical practice. As a result, I try always to model transparency, ethics and integrity for my teams. And honestly, when in doubt, I have turned to the Code of Professional Conduct and the ASOPs for guidance. In fact, I have led several professionalism sessions at meetings on the Code and ASOPs.
As a profession we must hold our members accountable for transparency and ethics. We have been largely successful at this, in that we remain a self-governed profession without government involvement in oversight and discipline. Decisions involving ethics and transparency are never black-and-white, and cannot and should not be made in a vacuum. The SOA Board has an extremely important role to play in member discipline, and I would take this responsibility very seriously.
Collaborative working relationships are essential to the governance function of the SOA Board of Directors, especially as board members work with each other, volunteers, and staff to achieve the strategic goals and mission of SOA. Describe a situation from either your professional or volunteer experiences that demonstrated you are a team player
I am frequently described as collaborative; oversight of collaborative projects is one of my strengths. In a perfect world I could establish a one-on-one relationship with everyone I work with, because working toward a team goal is much easier when you have a frame of reference of the other team members' motivations, personalities and concerns. I do my best to authentically form those relationships whenever possible. But whether or not a personal relationship exists, I also try to listen carefully to what is being said out loud, as well as to what is being said through body language, tone of voice or emotions. I don't like to be ignored when I communicate, and I try to offer respectful listening to people I work with.
A high point of my career has been leading the health section's public health strategic initiative. I went into the project with some ideas of how to proceed, but the project really blossomed once the task force members, and relationships among us all, began to gel. The team wanted (and we still want!) to change the world. We started out with blue-sky brainstorming and through teamwork we accomplished several tasks, including articles, meeting sessions, initial relationships with other organizations and an ongoing subgroup with monthly calls. I worked hard to balance my own ideas with those of smart and opinionated people, while still keeping the project moving. I also honed (but sadly did not perfect) my delegation skills, which enabled us to accomplish a great deal in an 18-month time period.
Board members need to exhibit curiosity and a desire to learn about areas that may potentially impact the SOA and the profession. How do you stay informed about what is going on nationally and internationally, and how do you apply that knowledge into your work with SOA and the profession?
I am hopelessly curious about the world, and I love to learn about new ideas and concepts. This may occasionally be to my detriment, since my career trajectory has favored opportunities in which I can learn new skills or practices, over opportunities in which I might have more promotional or advancement opportunities.
My work on the Research Executive Committee (REC) helps to keep me up to date on US and international actuarial practice. I can't always read every practice research report that we publish in detail, but I do try to understand the context from which a research idea or proposal is generated, and give each proposal care and consideration. The REC hosts a monthly call among research stakeholders to enable the REC to be transparent about which projects we fund, to solicit new ideas, and to share updates on research. I learn a lot on those calls.
I block time each week to keep up on reading, including SOA research and health care reports. I usually commute 2.5 hours per day on the train/walking, and I use that to listen to podcasts, including SOA podcasts! My best days are when I get to brainstorm ideas or solve problems with a team of colleagues and a whiteboard -- some of the best thinking can come from bringing together the ideas of a group of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. I recently had a meeting that was supposed to be a mentoring session, but instead we went off on a tangent of blockchain and cryptocurrency -- my mentee is trying to start a business in this field. So, the mentoring took a new direction and I learned something new in the process. That's the kind of stuff that makes me excited to come to work each day.
Respectful and prudent use of resources is an important function of all board members. Explain how you have demonstrated this characteristic in either your work or volunteer experiences and how it will carry over to your role on the SOA Board.
The REC is tasked with oversight of the REX pool, which has been funded by the Board in recent years in the range of $600,000 to $800,000. The REC utilizes a rigorous application process to select recipients of REX pool funds, and I am always impressed by the REC members' thought and consideration of each application; I believe we act as careful stewards of SOA resources. The REC also has authority over SOA research generally, including the approximately $400,000 allocated annually to the research committees. As chair of the REC, I facilitate discussions of application decisions and have also been consulted in the annual research budget as well as the budget for the new Strategic Research Program Initiative.
In my "day job," I design value-based care (VBC) programs, creative ways to pay health care providers for outcomes and value, and not just for every service they provide. So, I spend much of my time working to understand and analyze costs and short- and long-term benefits of new programs that my company implements. When we develop a new VBC model, our first guiding principle is to enhance the value of the contract to our members. As such, my team and I analyze projected costs of incentives as well as projected administrative costs, and weigh these against projected health care cost savings and additional revenue that the programs may generate.
My roles on staff at the SOA (from 2009 through 2013) brought visibility into the commitment to our members, including responsible stewardship of member dues, basic education fees and continuing education fees. I attended many SOA Board meetings over that time and observed how the Board worked with staff to allocate resources.
Provide a brief description of your professional background and the type of work you currently do and explain how these experiences have prepared you for the Elected Board Member role.
I have been working as a health actuary for 28 years, with many of those years spent in consulting roles. I have worked in just about every health line of business -- employee benefits, group insurance, individual insurance (including ACA plans), Medicaid, and Medicare -- and across many actuarial functions -- pricing, valuation, data and analytics, risk assessment/adjustment and provider contracting. In recent years, my roles have been more strategic, and focused more on leading teams and contributing to company leadership and subject matter expertise. Although I currently work for a large insurer, my role tends to be more consultative, leading design, development and implementation of new value-based care models.
My company is a so-called matrixed organization. Since I am part of a functional area (one dimension of the matrix) and must work across multiple lines of business (the other dimension), I have found that one of my most important skills is "influencing without authority", or getting people to accomplish tasks, make decisions and take on accountability without having official leadership over them. I also fondly refer to this as herding cats. Three functions have helped my effectiveness in "herding": 1) structured project governance (including role definition, charters and project management tools); 2) responsiveness to team input, including follow-through on commitments; and 3) forging meaningful individual relationships with the people who are key stakeholders on my projects.
The "herding" skill is absolutely critical for leading a volunteer committee. I have frequently applied this skill in my roles as chair of the REC and chair of the health sections public health strategic initiative and task force. I would anticipate using this skill extensively if I am elected to the SOA Board.
Volunteer and Governance Experience
Describe how your previous volunteer, personal and governance experiences would strengthen your contributions to the SOA Board and organization.
I believe that a fulfilling life requires three things: a) something that pays your bills, b) something that drives your passion, and c) something that is of service to others. I consider myself lucky; as an actuary I can accomplish all three!
As mentioned in previous questions, I am the current chair of the Research Executive Committee, and recently chaired the Health Section's strategic initiative on public health. In addition to these SOA leadership roles, I have written an article for an upcoming issue of The Actuary, served as a panelist on the Health Section's "18|11" partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation, and represented SOA health research to the media. I am one of the associate editors of the "Group Insurance" actuarial textbook and I have also volunteered on the AAA's Models of Care Delivery work group. I am involved in many volunteer activities outside of the profession, including serving on the executive board of a volunteer-run summer retreat, and volunteer work for my kids' schools, arts organizations and health care organizations.
All of these experiences demonstrate a passion for the profession and a service ethic that will form the backbone of a role on the SOA Board.