Woman to Watch: JoeAnn Flagg

Woman to Watch: JoeAnn Flagg

Arlene Hisiger  herRochester.com, December 20, 2013

JoeAnn Flagg
JoeAnn Flagg is the kind of person you would describe as a friend, despite having just met her. To be in her presence is to experience grace, genuine warmth, and appreciation of others.

She proudly points to her parents as the people who most inspired her personality. Even though her parents suffered the indignities of growing up in the segregated South, they impressed upon her the importance of human dignity and treating everyone with respect.

Starting her career in retail, Flagg worked her way up to store manager of a women's clothing store. But after 14 years, the demands of bringing up children and running a store caused her to conclude that she needed a change.

She had worked downtown where many Blue Cross employees were her customers. They first sparked her interest in applying for a job at Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield.

"I started (at Excellus) in customer service," Flagg said, "and went through a rigorous six-month training. They would test us weekly and if you didn't get 90% you were out."

"Customer service is kind of like Ellis Island," said Jim Redmond, Vice President of Communications at Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield. "A lot of different people come in at that level and many rise up the ranks."
Flagg has worn many hats at Excellus. Currently, she is a certified application counselor, which means she helps people navigate the dizzying array of medical insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act.

She finds the work environment at Excellus very supportive. Three quarters of the workforce is female, and some have attained upper-echelon rank. "It is a company that has great opportunities for women," Redmond said.

Flagg recalled when her daughter, a first-grader at the time, was in a school play. Her manager knew that Flagg wanted very much to be present when her daughter performed. Yet Flagg did not leave her desk as she feared that minimum staffing that day would affect the operation of the business. "Isn't this the day of your daughter's play?" her manager asked. When Flagg explained why she chose not to leave, her manager asked, "Do you think this place can't run without you?" and insisted she leave.

"That's when I knew I had made the right choice (to work for Excellus); that was pivotal," Flagg said.

A part of her job that she finds exciting and rewarding is attending health fairs to educate the public regarding the benefits of income-based insurance programs. One experience in particular stands out in her mind. After assisting a young mother in enrolling in the Child Health Plus program, the woman burst into tears and thanked her profusely. "There is great reward in feeling that you can make a positive difference in a person's life. Every day, I am able to make a difference in my community, one family at a time," Flagg said.

Contact Arlene at 585-442-6108 or arlene@wordtailor.net 
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