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Blue Cross adding customer service reps at WakeMed's Raleigh campus

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and WakeMed have expanded their relationship at WakeMed's Raleigh campus on New Bern Avenue.

Under a new pilot program, BCBS will have customer service people on site during the week to assist patients and case managers.

It's the first time BCBS has placed customer service employees in a hospital to help with claims and benefits.       

Previous versions of the on-site service model involved BCBS professionals working with hospital billing departments to help answer patient questions.

Blue Cross and Allscripts to distribute $23 million in technology to doctors

The state's biggest insurance company said today it will pay 750-plus doctors and 39 free clinics in North Carolina to switch from paper prescriptions and forms to electronic medical records.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina announced the $23 million program in collaboration with with Allscripts, a Chicago company that will contribute $8 million to the effort.

The companies said that using electronic medical records will reduce errors, flag unnecessary tests and give medical professionals instant access to a patient's medical history. Thus, if a Raleigh resident has an emergency in Asheville, doctors and nurses in that city could instantaneously access the patient's vital records, instead of requesting faxes of paper records.


Blue Cross to seek rate hike for some members

Blue Cross and Blue Shield is seeking a 6.35 percent rate hike for individuals who buy its Blue Advantage health plan.

If approved by the N.C. Department of Insurance, the higher rates would start Jan. 1. Last year, Blue Cross asked for a 6.97 percent increase but agreed to a 5.37 percent hike as part of a settlement with the DOI.

Rates would remain the same for Blue Options HSA and Blue Saver plans, which are high-deductible plans with lower premiums but fewer benefits. Those plans have about 80,000 members.

Blue Advantage is a traditional co-pay plan with about 265,000 members.

As the state's largest health insurer, Blue Cross dominates the market for individual coverage. Its clout also helps determine rates that other insurers in North Carolina are able to set.

Blue Cross to switch drug benefits manager

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the state’s largest health insurer, said today it’s dumping its pharmacy services vendor that manages drug purchases for nearly half of its 3.7 million customers.

Blue Cross said it’s in negotiations to end its contract with Medco Health Solutions, a New Jersey pharmacy benefits manager. The switch would likely reduce drug costs for Blue Cross customers, said spokesman Lew Borman. He declined to offer details since contract negotiations are still ongoing.

Blue Cross’s 600,000-plus customers in the state government health plan would not see a change, however. Neither would 113,000 Medicare members who buy supplemental coverage from Blue Cross. Their pharmacy benefits are handled by Medco in separate contracts that would not be affected by Blue Cross switching to another provider.

Blue Cross starts 'crowdsourcing' website

The state's largest health insurer is taking new steps to embrace social media and networking.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield has started an online forum designed to gather consumers' opinions about health insurance, wellness and other issues. The nonprofit will encourage participation by giving away gift cards, sports tickets and other prizes.

The "crowdsourcing" website went live today. The company will post questions such as "Smokers -- should they pay more for their health insurance?" It allows participants to share feedback through Facebook and Twitter.

One goal is to tap into consumers' opinions about health care and coverage,  and make adjustments accordingly, said chief marketing officer John Roos. But it's also an easy way to market the insurer, and get feedback on various topics and products.

Michael Jordan helped win over Blue Cross CEO

A late October meeting with Charlotte Bobcats owner and basketball legend Michael Jordan helped seal the deal for Brad Wilson.

Wilson, the CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, announced Friday that the state's largest health insurer has revived a sponsorship deal with the professional basketball team. Financial terms of the one-year deal weren't disclosed.

Wilson talked with Jordan for about 15 minutes when he was in Charlotte on other business and stopped by the Bobcats' offices.

"I didn't go there to negotiate the terms and sign a deal, but my visit certainly validated the alignment of the interests of the two organizations," Wilson said.

Blue Cross pushes tax breaks for small businesses

Blue Cross and Blue Shield is expanding its efforts to attract small businesses interested in tax credits tied to federal health overhaul.

The state's largest health insurer is running ads on TV and elsewhere about the new tax credits, and recently started an online calculator for small business owners.

Blue Cross plans across the country are hoping to stand out among other health insurers that also are competing to win new customers among businesses that previously didn't provide health coverage.

"Small businesses are heavily impacted by health care reform," said Blue Cross CEO Brad Wilson, in a prepared statement. "I hope all North Carolina small businesses will take advantage of these resources to ensure they receive the maximum benefits from this law."

The U.S. Treasury today issued new guidelines on the Affordable Care Act, in an attempt to clear up confusion created by the law passed earlier this year.

Blue Cross begins mailing refunds

The state's largest health insurer on Monday started mailing out refund checks worth $155.8 million to 215,000 customers across North Carolina.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced in September it would pay the refunds, which are tied to changes brought by the federal health overhaul.

The size of the refunds are based on rates paid and will equal about 1 1/2 months of premiums for Blue Advantage customers who had policies in effect as of March 23. For a customer paying an average of $380 a month, the refund will be about $690.

In a letter to Blue Cross members, CEO Brad Wilson shares credit for the refunds with N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin.

"In these challenging economic times, we are honored that you have chosen to place your trust in us," Wilson writes.

National debate rages over Blue Cross refund

The buzz about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina's plan to refund $155.8 million isn't dying down.

Now the merits of the move and its political implications are being debated in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, extending the time that Blue Cross and N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin spend in the national spotlight.

Blue Cross ties to UNC include new president Ross

It's no secret that Blue Cross and Blue Shield has many ties to the UNC system.

One connection caused some conflict as a UNC search committee zeroed in on Davidson College's Tom Ross, left, as its new president, Eric Ferreri reports on our Campus Notes blog.

Blue Cross CEO Brad Wilson was a member of the UNC search committee and had to avoid participating in the deliberations that led to Ross' selection. And now Ross, who joined the Blue Cross board in March, may have to resign that position.

The health insurer's bylaws require that board members offer to step down if they change jobs. However, the board doesn't necessarily have to accept that resignation, so Ross may indeed remain on that board, Wilson said last week. The matter has yet to be addressed.

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