Another major Blue Cross plan is rolling out a program that pays plan members to comparison shop online for in-network providers.
In August, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina began 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. 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.
Now, another plan—Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan—is rolling out a similar smart shopper program for 500,000 plan members preferred provider organization (PPO). Beginning Jan. 1, PPO members that enroll in a Blue Cross rewards program can earn electronic gift cards valued from $25 to $75 by going online to the Blue Cross Michigan portal to comparison shop and select an in-network provider for about 140 non-emergency procedures, including for mammograms, ultrasounds, colonoscopies and sinus surgeries.
To participate, PPO group members access their online account online through the Blue Cross Michigan website or via the plan’s app, search for a reward-eligible procedure, sign up for the reward offered for each service and view provider results. A green trophy icon signifies a reward-eligible provider location. Once the service is completed with an eligible provider and a claim has been processed, the member will receive an e-gift card ranging from $25 to $75 in value up to a total of $550 per member, per calendar year.
Blue Cross Michigan, which administers healthcare benefits for 4.6 million plan members, developed a smart shopper program to help members find the lowest-cost qualified in-network provider. “An abdominal ultrasound ranges from approximately $200 to more than $550, depending on the facility,” says Blue Cross Michigan vice president of product development Janet Fava. “Blue Cross Rewards provides members with the information and tools they need to stay informed about their care options and make the most cost-effective choice to reduce out-of-pocket expenses.”
Blue Cross Michigan didn’t say how much the plan is spending on its new online program. But one priority is making it easy to sign up and use the rewards program online, Fava says. “We’ve made the functionality easy for members to navigate, so they feel comfortable exploring their options and making the best provider location choice for themselves and their families,” she says. “The rewards program is embedded right into the member’s online account, which makes it extremely user-friendly and within a capability many of our members may already be familiar with using.”
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