BlueCross Completes Industry First Enterprise-Wide Data Encryption

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has successfully completed a $6 million effort to encrypt all at-rest data throughout its enterprise, giving members peace of mind that their personal information is secure.

In October 2009, 57 hard drives were stolen from a BlueCross facility. The hard drives contained audio and video recordings related to customer service telephone calls from providers and members, and included varying degrees of personal information on about 1 million members. To date, there is no indication of any misuse of personal data from the stolen hard drives.

In response to the theft, BlueCross worked to comply with all regulatory requirements, including notifying all impacted members and providing free credit monitoring services to members at a higher risk of identity theft. Next, the company launched and has now completed a major initiative to encrypt more than 885 terabytes of at-rest data residing within the enterprise.

“The trust of our members is one of our most important assets, and the hard drive theft represented a serious threat to that trust,” said Nick Coussoule, senior vice president and chief information officer for BlueCross. “The lessons we learned from the theft led us to go above and beyond current industry standards, and our team has worked tirelessly to put new safeguards in place and encrypt all our at-rest data.”

BlueCross invested more than $6 million and 5,000 man-hours in the data encryption effort, which included:

– 885 Terabytes of mass data storage
– 1,000 Windows, AIX, SQL, VMWare and Xen server hard drives
– 6,000 workstation hard drives and removable media drives
– 25,000 voice call recordings per day
– 136,000 volumes of backup tape

The company began by completing an exhaustive inventory of all the points where data resides within the company, from computer hard drives to servers and removable media devices, such as USB drives and CD/DVD burners. BlueCross divided the encryption efforts into six key areas of focus and completed the project in just over a year. As a result all at-rest, or stored, data is now encrypted.

“We searched the country and were unable to find another company that has achieved this level of data encryption,” said Michael Lawley, vice president of technology shared services for BlueCross. “In addition to world-class information security technology, we have adopted even stricter policies and procedures that support our ongoing commitment to security. Our members can rest easier knowing we implemented this process to better protect their privacy.”

Data encryption is achieved through the use of algorithms, which convert normal, readable information into an indecipherable format, and secure keys, which allow only authorized users to convert the information back into a format they can use. This means that even in the event of a theft or some other security breach, no one would be able to read the data contained on BlueCross hardware, whether it was a computer, server or flash drive.

For more information on BlueCross’ data encryption efforts, visit www.bcbst.com/data.

About BlueCross
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee offers its customers peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at www.bcbst.com.

 

Health Insurance Provider Florida Health Care Plans Launches One of a Kind Wellness Solution

Daytona Beach, FL (PRWEB) July 19, 2011 –  Florida Health Care Plans (FHCP) has announced the launch of its new wellness rider.

“We are a local company with the goal of improving the health of our members and our community by promoting an employee/employer culture of wellness education, focusing on healthy habits, preventive care, easier access to wellness programs and educational resources,” says Dr. Wendy Myers, CEO of Florida Health Care Plans.

This new approach is a collaborative effort between employers, employees and FHCP, to team together and work with health data to assist employees in addressing unhealthy habits with the goal of a healthier lifestyle. This employee/employer collaboration can also help control the zooming costs of healthcare, and create a healthier, happier and more productive workforce.

The rider has an attractive price tag, costing only 1%-2% of the group plan premium, for increased focus on employees’ health habits that could see a healthy return on investment (ROI). According to the National Business Group on Health, a non-profit industry advisory group, “Employers can realize as much as $3.27 in financial benefits for every $1.00 invested in workplace wellness programs.”

Another study, done by Sarasota County says, “A review of 32 studies of corporate wellness programs found claims costs were reduced by 27.8%,” and there were also significant declines shown in the number of physician visits, hospital admissions and incidence of injury.

Top of the line technology makes FHCP’s wellness plansaccessible and user friendly. The company provides a 24 hour nurse advice line, a self-paced program for those who want to quit smoking, a weight management program and many other educational programs to encourage preventive healthy habits in addition to regular preventive care. Members also have access to an exclusive member portal, providing an easy way to make appointments with FHCP staff physicians, refill prescriptions at FHCP pharmacies and access “Welcome to Wellness” a state of the art health risk assessment with access to articles and multimedia content personalized for each member. There are also programs for members who have heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure and COPD for no extra charge. All of these programs focus on preventive treatment that helps to ward off serious health problems before they happen.

Dr. Mikelle Streicher PhD, RN Chief Marketing and Sales Officer says, “Workplace Wellness programs are not a passing trend. It is about investing in people and in good health so that good business and a healthy bottom line are all the more possible to obtain.”

For more information about FHCP’s health and wellness plans please visit http://www.fhcp.com.

About Florida Health Care Plans:
FHCP is a health maintenance organization in East Central Florida. Being an HMO, the company brings a strong emphasis on preventive care and health and wellness resources and education. As a local organization, they have been living among their clients for thirty years, working to bring better health care to the residents of Florida. Approximately 2,000 employers have trusted FHCP to take care of their employees with a wide selection of services and health solution products. In January 2009, they joined Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida as an independent licensee, which provides FHCP members with nationwide and global access to Blue Cross Blue Shield’s highly regarded and accessible Blue Card network. Their latest response to the needs of the community was in 2011, with the development of an Individual Health Plan product.

 

Humana’s New Provider Quality Rewards Program Awarding Nearly $10 Million to Primary Care Physicians

LOUISVILLE, Ky.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) has begun distributing nearly $10 million to physicians across the U.S. who participate in Humana’s Provider Quality Rewards Program. Approximately 2,800 physician practices will receive payments of as much as $175,000 in recognition of performance improvements their practices made during 2010 related to improved outcomes for Humana’s Medicare members.

“This program begins a shift to a more holistic view of the patient and changes the physician-payer relationship to focus on patients’ quality of life, improving outcomes, and lowering health care costs.”

“Humana’s Provider Quality Rewards Program seeks to support practices with the goal of improving outcomes and efficiencies in the entire health care delivery system,” said Tim O’Rourke, vice president of provider engagement at Humana. “This program begins a shift to a more holistic view of the patient and changes the physician-payer relationship to focus on patients’ quality of life, improving outcomes, and lowering health care costs.”

Humana’s payments to physician practices are based on the practices’ ability to improve quality in nine National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) preventive and chronic-condition management areas, including:

  • Breast cancer screening
  • Glaucoma screening
  • Colorectal cancer screening
  • Cholesterol screening
  • Diabetes management
  • Osteoporosis medication management
  • Spirometry testing for COPD patients
  • Monitoring patients on persistent medication
  • Anti-rheumatic drugs for patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Physician practices that achieved quality improvements – regarding treatment of Humana Medicare members – in the majority of the nine measures during 2010 are receiving the largest reward payments from Humana.

“The feedback we’ve received from doctors about this program has been very good. We’re excited about the future of Humana’s provider-engagement model, and that this program is continuing in 2011, because of what it represents – a way to recognize and reward the great strides these physician practices are making toward helping their patients achieve lifelong well-being,” O’Rourke said.

About Humana

Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, is a leading consumer-focused health care company that offers a wide range of insurance products and health and wellness services that incorporate an integrated approach to lifelong well-being. By leveraging the strengths of its core businesses, Humana believes it can better explore opportunities for existing and emerging adjacencies in health care that can further enhance wellness opportunities for the millions of people across the nation with whom the company has relationships.

 

Regence Life and Health Keeps it Simple With Launch of myStro

PORTLAND, Ore., July 26, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Regence Life and Health has launched myStro, an online enrollment tool that provides employers and their employees with customized, real-time information about their insurance benefits. Among the features is a guided tour that walks employees through their benefit options and recommends the best products to meet their unique profile and coverage needs.

“The myStro enrollment system reflects Regence Life and Health’s commitment to offering our members a personalized, simplified member experience. Our goal is to go beyond enrollment to make managing their benefits effortless, so our employer groups can focus on their business,” says Regence Life and Health CEO Joe Wilds.

Benefits enrollment made easy

The system does the work for employers and employees by helping them navigate through their benefit information:

  • Each employee uses myStro to navigate their benefits and learn about each product. The  system then makes recommendations for new or additional benefits based on their personal, demographic information. As they do so, the system tallies up any coverage costs, providing a breakout of costs and coverage (pre-tax, post-tax and employer paid).
  • Employers can use the system to view the benefit plan(s) each employee has chosen, who has yet to enroll in benefits and how much should be deducted from their paycheck for each plan.

 

Putting the human back in human resources

myStro is customized for each Regence Life and Health client and may include information from all of their insurers – including medical, dental, life insurance and short term disability. Employers can use myStro in one or a combination of the following to enroll in their benefits:

  • Web-based, real-time enrollment with a licensed educator walking each employee through their benefits
  • Online only with enhanced education on each product
  • Paper applications customized for each employee

 

To learn more about myStro, please visit http://regencelife.com/myStro/intro.

About Regence Life and Health

For more than 20 years, Regence Life and Health has offered quality life and disability products, dental and health plans. As a subsidiary of The Regence Group, the company is associated with the financial strength and brand recognition of the largest health insurer in the Northwest/Intermountain Region. Regence Life and Health is committed to lifetime relationships with our members and helping them through life transitions. For more information, please visit www.regencelife.com.

 

SOURCE Regence Life and Health Insurance Company

 

CIGNA Individual and Family Plan Customers Use “DailyFeatsTM” to Improve Health and Well-being

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. – July 19, 2011 – CIGNA (CI:NYSE) announced today that its Individual and Family Plan customers in Colorado and Texas can now earn points and save money on real-life expenses by accomplishing “feats” that reflect good health, emotional well-being and community involvement. CIGNA is working with DailyFeats, an online site where people can “check in” the good things they do. Customers exhange points earned for rewards, including discounts at local businesses and savings on national brands. 

The free program encourages CIGNA customers to maintain good health through simple and easy behaviors, such as taking a family walk after dinner, adding fruits and vegetables to meals and helping local charitable groups better serve the community. CIGNA customers who sign up can be eligible for 2,000 bonus points instantly redeemable for a $10 gift certificate from a national retailer or saved for larger rewards. Major, well-known retailers, as well as local stores in a community, participate in DailyFeats

“Our collaboration with DailyFeats gives our customers an innovative way to get rewarded for healthy and positive choices they make each and every day,” states Chris Hocevar, president of CIGNA’s Individual and Family Plan segment. “We believe that connecting our customers with others who are also interested in sharing how they stay healthy will be another way to encourage healthy lifestyles.

CIGNA customers have access to a dedicated site www.cigna.dailyfeats.com that helps build online, local community discussions. “We are excited that CIGNA has joined with us to help its individual and family plan customers in Colorado and Texas live well,” states Morley Ivers, chief operation officer of Daily Feats. “We are confident that CIGNA customers will find DailyFeats to be a unique way to support them as they strive to live a healthy life.”
For more information about DailyFeats, please go to www.dailyfeats.com. CIGNA customers in Colorado and Texas who are interested in joining this pilot program can go towww.cigna.dailyfeats.com.
About CIGNA
CIGNA (NYSE: CI) is a global health service and financial company dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and sense of security. CIGNA Corporation’s operating subsidiaries in the United States provide an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision care benefits, as well as group life, accident and disability insurance. CIGNA offers products and services in 29 countries and jurisdictions and has more than 66 million customer relationships throughout the world. All products and services are provided exclusively by such operating subsidiaries and not by CIGNA Corporation.

 

 

Priority Health Pharmacy Initiatives Save $50 Million over 5 Years

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As rising pharmacy costs continue to plague the health system, Priority Health’s pharmacy management initiatives have protected its members while keeping costs far below the national average for five years. The 4% savings equates to nearly $10 million per year and more than $50 million over five years.

“Pharmacy is one of the critical components that make up the cost of health care”

“Pharmacy is one of the critical components that make up the cost of health care,” said Kimberly K. Horn, president and CEO for Priority Health. “It’s an area we have committed significant resources to and created significant savings from, and in-turn, passed those savings along to our customers through lower premium increases.”

The facts around pharmacy are staggering, especially if you consider that each day Priority Health:

  • Processes 15,000 prescriptions with a total price tag of $1 million
  • Approves new specialty drugs that often cost up to $35,000 annually for a single patient (or member)
  • Pays for brand name drugs that account for 75 percent of costs and annual price increases of 8-10 percent
  • Reviews specialty drugs that can account for 20 percent of an employer’s health care costs

“Despite significant cost increases in pharmacy, Priority Health has developed programs that not only reduce costs and improve the quality of care but also deliver an exceptional customer experience,” adds Horn. “We distinguish ourselves by working closely with physicians, our staff pharmacists and our customers to create programs that deliver better health care outcomes and lower out-of-pocket costs.”

Employers and members see the greatest benefit of Priority Health’s innovative approach to health care when the medical plan and pharmacy plan are linked. By analyzing claims and pharmacy data, Priority Health has been able to ensure that customers get the safe and appropriate care. The company reviews pharmacy claims in “real-time” to determine whether a member is experiencing significant health issues and needs additional assistance. Once identified, these members are enrolled in its award-winning case and disease management programs.

Priority Health’s generic drug utilization continues to deliver significant savings. Nearly 80 percent of the prescriptions filled by its customers are generics. The company also offers:

  • A network of 60,000 pharmacies nationwide to provide services
  • Money saving benefit designs: 2-tier, 3-tier and 3-tier with specialty drug management
  • Low or no dispensing fees
  • Pharmacy case management services promote safety, effectiveness and cost-savings
  • A comprehensive support program that includes case management services for employees with chronic medical conditions
  • Expert resources, including a panel of physicians and pharmacists, who collaborate to build an approved list of safe, effective, FDA-approved medications and therapy management programs
  • A searchable, online approved drug list to help members determine if their prescriptions are covered and identify costs
  • Cost-sharing options that promote sensible prescription choices

More information about Priority Health’s pharmacy programs and success with managing costs is available on priorityhealth.com.

About Priority Health:

Priority Health is an award-winning health plan nationally recognized for creating innovative solutions that impact health care costs while maximizing customer experience. It offers a broad portfolio of products for employer groups, individuals and Medicare and Medicaid. As a nonprofit company, Priority Health serves more than 600,000 people and continues to be ranked among America’s best health plans by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

 

Anthem Blue Cross Emergency Room Interventions Using Google Maps and Education, Empower Consumers to Choose ER Alternatives for Non-Emergency Conditions

WOODLAND HILLS, Calif., July 8, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Anthem Blue Cross has launched an emergency room education campaign incorporating Google Maps to make it easier for consumers to find and use retail health clinics and urgent care centers for non-emergency conditions when their regular physicians are not available.

“When your five-year-old is crying with a fever at 7 p.m. on a Friday because she has a sore throat or an ear ache, what do you do?” said Kurt Tamaru, MD, Anthem medical director.  “It’s important people know that they have options for less serious ailments other than an ER, such as retail health clinics and urgent care centers that provide quality care and cost them significantly less.”

For example, emergency rooms that contract with Anthem Blue Cross generally charge an average $641 to treat strep throat compared with $70 at urgent care centers and $27 at retail health clinics. Consumers can save out-of-pocket expenses because ER copays cost about $150, compared with $10 to $40 for retail health clinics and urgent care centers.

“Not only were the ER program’s online tools developed to be easy to use—but they are available to everyone,” said Pam Kehaly, president, Anthem Blue Cross. “All you have to do is go to Google, Yahoo! or Bing, and type in ‘Anthem and urgent care’ and our educational site will pop up with a link to help you find ER alternatives. The link will also provide information on when it’s appropriate to use these alternatives.”

“We see in our data that the highest rates of avoidable ER use are among people 34 and younger—those who are less likely to have a primary care physician but more likely to be technology consumers,” Tamaru said. “We chose to develop Google Maps and create online links because that’s where many consumers go for information today.”

About 17 percent of all visits to hospital emergency departments nationally could potentially be treated at retail medical clinics or urgent care centers for an estimated savings of $4.4 billion, according to a RAND Corp. study published in the September 2010 edition of Health Affairs. ER visits also are getting longer, with California ranked 40th nationally in the length of its ER waits—274 minutes, according to the Emergency Department Pulse Report, Press Ganey Associates, 2010.

Research performed by HealthCore Inc., which conducts research for health plans and others, showed that a pilot program with a commercially insured population in Virginia, which included member education via e-mails and online advertising, in addition to financial incentives and a Google map finder for retail health clinics and urgent care centers, assisted in members’ decisions to use ER alternatives for non-emergency care.

The study showed that ER use for conditions that could be treated at retail health or urgent care clinics decreased in 2010 from 2009 for all populations studied.  Specifically, HealthCore reported a 14 percent decrease in ER visits for those who participated in the program compared with those who did not. The decrease in visits covered minor sicknesses or conditions that could be treated elsewhere.

“This program demonstrates that by empowering members with information on appropriate resources, they can get the care they need while helping to control health care costs and reduce their out of pocket expenses,” added Kehaly.

After the intervention period, the group participating in the program was more than twice as likely to seek treatment for non-emergency conditions at retail health clinics than those who did not participate.

The ER program includes:

  • Links on Google, Yahoo! and Bing that drive visitors to an educational site explaining when it’s appropriate to use ER alternatives, such as retail health clinics and urgent care centers.

 

  • A Google map, available to everyone, that provides the location of ER alternatives in Anthem’s network throughout the state so that consumers can easily find them.
  • Automated calls to educate members whose recent ER visits were potentially avoidable, and e-mails to members interested in learning more information.
  • Educational pieces mailed explaining the type of conditions that could be treated at ER alternatives and potential differences in cost.

About Anthem Blue Cross:

Anthem Blue Cross is the trade name of Blue Cross of California.  Anthem Blue Cross Partnership Plan is the trade name of Blue Cross of California Partnership Plan. Anthem Blue Cross and Anthem Blue Cross Partnership Plan are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Association. ® ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc.  The Blue Cross names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross Association. Additional information about Anthem Blue Cross is available at www.anthem.com/ca. Also, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/healthjoinin, on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/HealthJoinIn, , or visit our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/healthjoinin

 

SOURCE Anthem Blue Cross

 

Humana Delivers on Well-being Commitment with Launch of HumanaVitality Wellness and Loyalty Program

LOUISVILLE, Ky.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–This week, Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) health plan members start earning rewards for their efforts to live healthier lives through the launch of HumanaVitality – a wellness and loyalty program that features a wide range of well-being tools and rewards from leading reward-partners. A key element of the program is a sophisticated health-behavior-change model supported by an actuarially sound incentive program.

“Humana is focused on innovation and providing our members a program that will help them succeed at pursuing better health and achieving lifelong well-being”

HumanaVitality is now included with Humana commercial members’ medical plans when they begin a new plan year with Humana. As Humana members enroll in the program, they’ll get the information they need to get started, improve their health and earn points to redeem for rewards.

“Humana is focused on innovation and providing our members a program that will help them succeed at pursuing better health and achieving lifelong well-being,” said Michael B. McCallister, Humana’s chairman of the board and chief executive officer. “With the launch of HumanaVitality we are excited to have our members experience this comprehensive, proven wellness solution. Humana members will be more motivated and rewarded to make positive behavior changes such as exercising more, eating better, quitting smoking, or getting a preventive screening, regardless of their current level of fitness.”

The process of earning rewards is simple. First, members will go through a health assessment to determine their “Vitality Age” – which can be different from their biological age. Vitality Age provides each member with a scientifically calculated representation of their risk-adjusted, or “true” age, and allows members to easily understand how their current behaviors are impacting their health.

Next, members are presented with a set of “personal pathways” or recommended goals to help improve their health based on their individual health needs. Members self-select which goals to pursue. HumanaVitality provides incentives for more than 30 activities, broken into four categories:

  • Fitness (i.e. daily exercise)
  • Healthy Living (i.e. participating in a stop-smoking program)
  • Prevention (i.e. biometric screening)
  • Education (i.e. getting CPR certification)

Children can also earn Vitality Points for their family by receiving immunizations, flu shots and participating in team sports.

“With up to 70 percent of the nation’s health care budget consumed by behavioral issues including tobacco use, poor diet, inactivity and stress, we are encouraged that we can offer members a path and tools for change with HumanaVitality,” said Sean Slovenski, HumanaVitality’s chief operating officer. “This program works and we’re eager to help Humana members across the country get started on the road to better health and better lives.”

HumanaVitality enrollees who engage in healthy activities will earn points, allowing members to progress from their initial Blue Level status to Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Each level offers increasing rewards such as electronics, hotel stays or discounts with participating merchants that can be redeemed at the HumanaVitality Mall.

HumanaVitality is a joint venture between Humana and the Vitality program parent company, Discovery Holdings Ltd. (JSE: DSY), which is based in South Africa. Discovery Vitality, an international brand, is a science-based wellness solution that encourages healthy behaviors that reduce long-term health care costs by rewarding members for improving their health. Established more than 10 years ago, Vitality has built a comprehensive integrated approach to lifestyle improvement that works. In fact, a 2010 study from the American Journal of Health Promotion shows that individuals who regularly participated in the Vitality program experienced shorter and fewer hospital stays than those who didn’t participate or weren’t very engaged in the program.

HumanaVitality is not available to Humana Medicare members. It is also not available in some states or territories and may not be available with some plans.

About HumanaVitality

HumanaVitalitySM, headquartered in Chicago, is a joint venture between Humana and Discovery Holdings, Ltd. Humana partnered with Discovery because of its 13 years of worldwide reputable experience using behavioral, clinical and actuarial science to motivate individuals to make healthier choices. By integrating rewards with health, HumanaVitality provides the tools and support necessary to help Humana members live healthier lives and furthers Humana’s Dream to Help People Achieve Lifelong Well-BeingSM.

About Humana

Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is a leading health care company that offers a wide range of insurance products and health and wellness services that incorporate an integrated approach to lifelong well-being. By leveraging the strengths of its core businesses, Humana believes it can better explore opportunities for existing and emerging adjacencies in health care that can further enhance wellness opportunities for the millions of people across the nation with whom the company has relationships.

 

BCBSNC Establishes Network Of Accredited Specialty Pharmacies

CHAPEL HILLBlue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) is establishing a new network of specialty pharmacies to help customers better manage their complex, chronic health conditions and to address the rising costs of these prescription medications. These network changes will not affect customers’ prescription drug benefits in any way and customers may continue to receive non-specialty medications at any pharmacy in BCBSNC’s pharmacy network.

  • Specialty pharmacy network provides customers with nursing or pharmacist services 24 hours a day, disease specific evaluations and other benefits.
  • Specialty medication costs are expected to rise 13 to 15 percent annually over the next few years. BCBSNC’s new specialty pharmacy network is expected to moderate these increases.
  • Change does not affect Medicare Part D customers.

The BCBSNC specialty pharmacy network consists of pharmacy providers that have met rigorous criteria, including quality accreditation through URAC, a national and independent organization that promotes health care quality and efficiency. Pharmacies who meet the network criteria will offer the following comprehensive services:

  • Available nursing or pharmacist services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • Disease specific initial and ongoing evaluations, monitoring of medication adherence and counseling.
  • Convenient mail order service, with delivery to a customer’s location of choice.

Specialty medications are costly drugs that typically treat chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Specialty medications can be received through a customer’s medical or pharmacy benefits. These types of drugs often require special preparation and handling, such as mixing and refrigeration. Specialty drugs are typically those in tier 4 of BCBSNC’s prescription drug formulary. All pharmacies in the new network are specially equipped to handle dispensing specialty medications.

“The specialty pharmacies in our new network have met strict criteria for participation, including accreditation through an independent accrediting organization,” said Estay Greene, director of BCBSNC pharmacy programs. “These pharmacies have demonstrated their ability to offer comprehensive medication support to our customers.”

Specialty medication costs are on the rise, expected to increase 13 to 15 percent annually over the next few years. BCBSNC expects the new specialty pharmacy network to help moderate these increases. Specialty pharmacies in BCBSNC’s new network have staff available to help answer questions about medications, offer financial counseling and provide other support services.

Customers will still be able to receive non-specialty medications at any pharmacy in BCBSNC’s pharmacy network. The establishment of this specialty pharmacy network does not affect prescription drug benefits in any way.

Letters will be mailed to all individual customers who are affected by the change and include detailed information and instructions. Beginning July 1, customers can begin transferring any remaining refills on specialty prescriptions from their current pharmacy to a pharmacy in the new specialty pharmacy network.  By Aug. 15, 2011, all affected customers must use pharmacies within the specialty pharmacy network for their specialty medications in order to receive in-network benefits. The change does not impact BCBSNC’s Medicare Part D customers.

For additional information, customers are asked to contact BCBSNC at the toll-free customer service number listed on their ID card or visitwww.bcbsnc.com.

Pharmacies participating in BCBSNC’s specialty pharmacy network as of July 1, 2011:

  • Ascend Specialty Rx
  • Biologics
  • BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy
  • BioScrip
  • CommCare Pharmacy
  • CoramRx
  • CuraScript
  • CVS Caremark
  • DrugCo Health
  • Kerr Health
  • Long’s Drugs
  • MedPro Rx
  • US Bioservices

About BCBSNC
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.7 million members, including approximately 900,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 77 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolina through support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Access BCBSNC online at http://www.bcbsnc.com .

 

Blue Shield of California Members Share Personal Health Stories Online

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (June 30, 2011) — Building on an ongoing effort to engage its members about health, Blue Shield of California announced the launch of Member Stories, an online forum that lets members share personal stories that will hopefully inspire others to take control of their own health challenges.
Blue Shield members can submit text, photos and video to show how they are managing their health. Members can also read others’ stories, post comments, tag stories as “inspiring,” and share stories via Facebook. From now until July 31, Blue Shield will donate $5 for every story that’s shared on Member Stories. When members share their stories, they can choose to benefit one of three charities: California Partnership to End Domestic ViolenceThe Children’s Partnership, and California Primary Care Association.
“Tackling personal health issues can often be a solitary experience. Through Member Stories, our members are publicly sharing stories in a rich, deeply moving way that empowers other members who face similar challenges,” said Sue DeLeeuw, director for brand marketing, Blue Shield of California. “This is our way of harnessing the wisdom and bravery of our member community for better health.”
Member Stories is Blue Shield’s latest online initiative aimed at empowering members to share knowledge and experiences around health.
  • Ratings and Reviews, a first-of-its-kind feature in the healthcare industry, lets members give candid, public feedback about their experiences with Blue Shield health plans. It has collected nearly 2,000 member reviews averaging 4.0 out of 5 stars.
  • Ask & Answer, which enables members to ask questions and share knowledge about health topics, has generated more than 1,500 questions and answers from members and Blue Shield customer representatives and healthcare professionals.
Examples of inspiring member stories
Dozens of Blue Shield members have already shared stories about their challenges and triumphs with health issues ranging from stress and sleeplessness to cancer and high cholesterol. Dorothy Judy and Jo D’Anna are two examples.
  • Dorothy and Scott Judy of Newhall, Calif. had been fighting the battle of the bulge for years, but the couple recently took control of their weight and has lost a combined 77 pounds since last January. Initially hesitant to be “out there” with their experience, Dorothy, 56, and Scott, 60, shared their weight loss success online for the first time with Blue Shield’s Member Stories, and they’re proud they did it. Their story shows the power that a support system – in this case, a spouse – can have in overcoming health challenges.Writes Dorothy:”Having his support made a huge difference in my success. Eating right, exercising 4 or more days a week has changed my outlook on life and the way I look and feel. Taking control of this aspect of my life has made a big contribution to my health and well being.”

    Dorothy thinks that seeing other people willing to talk about their health struggles and/or successes through Member Stories can make the journey to better health less lonely.

  • Jo D’Anna of Forest Knolls, Calif. had heard horror stories from friends about colonoscopies and put off getting her own for more than 10 years. The lack of reliable transportation from friends and family only made it easier for the singer-songwriter to continue postponing it, but her family history of colon disease finally compelled her to get it done. Last May, just after turning 61, Jo got her first colonoscopy, calling it “a piece of cake, and actually fun.” She has provided a detailed account of it on Facebook and Blue Shield’s Member Stories. Her story shows that colonoscopies are not as embarrassing, uncomfortable or invasive as most people think.Writes Jo:”The procedure itself was a piece of cake, and actually fun. The nurses were delightful and funny, and made you feel completely at ease, like it was no big deal. They keep you comfy and warm. They talk about funny things. Then, suddenly you’re wheeled into the procedure room and before you know it, you’re totally unconscious. I woke up in the sunlit recovery room, having felt no time pass, and absolutely no pain.”

    Jo hopes the story of her colonoscopy will encourage those considering it not to procrastinate.

The full version of these and other stories are available at www.blueshieldca.com/memberstories.

Background on Blue Shield of California

Blue Shield of California, an independent member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health plan with 3.5 million members, 4,800 employees, and one of the largest provider networks in California. Founded in 1939 and headquartered in San Francisco, Blue Shield of California offers a wide range of commercial and government products throughout the state.