Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is offering plan members discounts for using the lowest cost provider for treatment and the digital tools to find them.
The plan’s recently rolled out SmartShopper program will pay a plan member up to $500 a procedure if they select the lowest-cost in-network provider. “In many industries, a higher price tag often means better quality or value, but many consumers don’t know that this is not the case in health care,” says North Carolina Blue Cross chief growth officer John Roos “Today, we’re the only insurer in the state with a program that offers cash to shop for high-quality care in lower-cost settings. This has an immediate payoff for our customers and lowers their overall health care costs.”
So far the SmartShopper program is only available to plan members that are part of a self-insured group with more than 250 employees. To date about 12 plan members have signed up for SmartShopper since the program rolled out on July 1. Eventually SmartShopper will be extended to other consumers that make up the 3.8 million plan members of Blue Cross North Carolina, but details have yet to be announced. “We are looking to roll this out to customers more widely in the coming months,” says a Blue Cross spokesman. “We project more to sign up as the projected savings are $5 dollars for every $1 invested.”
Blue Cross of North Carolina integrated SmartShopper with the plan’s search and comparison shopping tools. Using the find a doctor and estimate costs tools, plan members can view what their out-of-pocket costs for a procedure will be while they shop and sort providers by quality rating and distance. They can also read and write reviews.
Blue Cross worked with physician rating and local application developer Vitals.com on the Smart Shopper program. When using SmartShopper, a plan member will be provided up to three options of providers depending upon the treatment or procedure being search. The cash back incentives, which are mailed as rebate checks to plan members one the procedure has been performed and insurance claim paid, tiered by the cost of each associated provider and based on a scale of $100 to $500.
SmartShopper covers more than 80 procedures and Blue Cross of North Carolina is offering SmartShopper as a way to help curb escalating healthcare costs, the plan says. “National studies show people in North Carolina pay much more for health care than those in nearly all other states,” says the spokesman. “The cost of a procedure can differ by thousands of dollars even in the same town.”
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