‘Working here had a hand in saving my life,’ says Excellus BCBS employee

Since the age of 12, type 1 diabetes has been a part of Tayla Riccio’s life, often altering the course of her day and shaping her choices. “I have a rarer form of type 1,” explains Tayla, a customer care advocate at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “My blood sugar can drop for no reason, it just happens.” This sudden onset of symptoms is not only scary, but it can be very severe, even deadly if left untreated.  “I get fuzzy, everything starts to spin, and I can become incoherent. Everything just stops,” she says. These episodes can occur once every couple of months or as frequently as 2 or 3 times a month.

Tayla’s positive, upbeat attitude is contagious, and she loves making her co-workers laugh. But she has definitely faced her fair share of challenges, particularly in the workplace. “Before working at Excellus BCBS, no one really cared,” says Tayla. While working at a previous job in the food service industry, she recalls, “I remember waking up from being on the floor incoherent and wondering what happened.”

Tayla Riccio, customer care advocate at Excellus BCBS.

The turning point

Things changed for Tayla when she accepted a position as a customer care advocate at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in 2021. During her first one-on-one meeting with her current supervisor, she shared with him that she had type 1 diabetes and might need extended personal time to manage her condition. He was very supportive and helped her understand her options for time away from work and disability accommodations offered by the organization.

“To have a supervisor that has been more than willing to work through the situations that I have and be incredibly open and supportive of this disability is great. I’m not afraid to tell him things,” she says. Her circle of support extends to her teammates and team lead as well. “I don’t feel shy or scared to tell them what is going on.  They have been more than open and more than supportive. I’m so thankful for them. They are not willing to let my disability hold me back from opportunities.”

Staying safe with the help of her team and the Health Plan

Planning for emergency situations is crucial to navigating her medical condition and her team plays an important role in keeping her safe. “If I’m at the point where I’m incoherent and on the verge of passing out, I’ll send an S.O.S. text to my husband and then he’ll in turn notify one of my team leads and they will notify my supervisor.  It is kind of this process that we’ve established,” she shares.

Not only is Tayla an Excellus BCBS employee but she is also a member of the health plan.  Prior to joining the Excellus BCBS team, Tayla was a Medicaid member. “I had gone years without insurance in other states because I didn’t have the money to pay for it.  To be able to have the insurance provided to me and to be able to get what I needed, I was incredibly thankful every time Excellus BCBS was able to cover something,” recalls Tayla. When she became an employee, she was thrilled to know she had an affordable buy-up option that would provide the care she needs to manage her diabetes.

A life-saving experience

“I would say that working here had a hand in saving my life,” Tayla says as she recalls a particularly harrowing experience in June of 2022. “I had an extreme low, it was really, really bad, my blood sugar dropped to 25.”  She notes that blood sugar levels under 65 mg/dL are considered severely low. “I don’t remember a lot of what happened, I ended up being so deep into unconsciousness,” she explains. EMTs attempted to arouse her but she had no reaction, so they determined it was best to take her to the hospital and administer glucose through an I.V.  After a heavy dose of glucose, she became conscious again but needed to spend a total of four days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). “Being in that state, stuck in the hospital, it was really hard,” shares Tayla. “I think if I didn’t have the support I had with Excellus BCBS, I don’t think I would have been okay. Not only having the great insurance provided for the time when I almost lost my life, but to know that I didn’t have the stress behind having to fork out thousands of dollars for an I.C.U. stay.  I’m so thankful for the plan.”

Affordable health insurance and so much more

While having affordable health insurance is important to Tayla, it wasn’t what first attracted her to the position at Excellus BCBS. “I wanted to learn the ins and outs of health insurance and heard that Excellus BCBS was a great company to work for,” she explains.  “Being on Excellus BCBS Medicaid at the time, a lot of the reps I spoke with as a member were pretty great, they seemed genuinely happy at their jobs.” This, coupled with the opportunity to work from home to better accommodate the challenges of her disability, made Excellus BCBS a great choice for Tayla. “Being able to work from home, if I have a low, I can just grab a Gatorade. I have carbs here to bring up my blood sugar,” she explains.  “My neuropathy isn’t acting up because I’m able to sit down. And I have a sit/stand desk for the times when I do need to stand up and move around. I can work more effectively by working from home.”

She was even more confident in her choice of employer when she learned about the benefits offered by the organization. “I assumed that there would be benefits, but when we actually went through the benefits part of my training, I was like ‘oh wow!’. I see the 3 plans, I see this 401K match, all these benefits I didn’t have access to before…the EAP benefits.”

Tayla on graduation day.

Sharing the support

Connecting with others and finding support has been an important part of Tayla’s journey.  The organization’s culture of “caring about wellbeing” is evident. “My teammates have been incredibly supportive. They check on me. When I’m not my usual self, people know I’m not okay,” she says. Tayla does not shy away from taking the support she has received and paying it forward. As a customer care advocate, some members request to speak with her because of her experience with type 1 diabetes. She can relate and understand what they are going through. “I find that if I’m open about my own medical condition, then maybe someone can benefit from the knowledge that I am willing to share.”

We care about wellbeing  

Tayla’s story illustrates how the culture, values and behaviors of Excellus BCBS can have a tremendous impact on its employees both personally and professionally. Caring about wellbeing, empowering employees to do their best work, and modeling the IDEA mindset created space for Tayla to thrive. The organization’s focus on wellbeing also helps shape their employee Total Rewards philosophy.  The benefits offered by the organization are designed to support employees’ physical, emotional and financial health throughout their life journey so they can be at their very best.

Job opportunities

Are you looking to take the next step in your career and make a difference in others’ lives?

We have the right fit for you. Positions are available in many departments including Customer Care, Operational Excellence, Marketing and Sales, Information Technology, and more. Check us out at careers.excellusbcbs.com. Get to know our people and our values, and grow your relationship with us.  For more information, reach out to Director of Talent Acquisition Jason Helsdon at Jason.Helsdon@excellus.com.

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