Blue Cross NC Launches ‘SmartShopper’ Program, Drives Cost Awareness by Paying Members to Shop for Health Care

Members are paid cash to shop and compare health care procedures at different facilities

Find a Doctor - SmartShopper - Modal Step 1
  • New program makes it simpler for members to realize cost savings at the doctor’s office. Members have access to new, enhanced features to shop for health care.
  • Prices for procedures can vary by thousands of dollars even in the same town. Program reveals substantial cost savings and pays up to $500 per procedure to choose lower cost, high quality options for common medical care.
  • Nearly half of all health care spending by employers are for common procedures considered “shoppable”[1]

 

DURHAM, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) has launched SmartShopper, powered by Vitals. This program is the first of its kind in the state. When purchased by their employer, SmartShopper pays members cash for shopping and comparing costs of common medical procedures. When members choose the most affordable doctors and hospitals delivering high-quality care, a check is mailed to their home. SmartShopper is the latest way the company is shining a light on health care costs and how prices vary among providers and facilities.

 

Consumers can have a big impact on health care costs, especially in North Carolina:

  • National studies show people in North Carolina pay much more for health care than those in nearly all other states.1
  • The state is currently ranked #50 on certain cost measures.
  • The cost of a procedure can differ by thousands of dollars even in the same town.

 

SmartShopper helps customers save money by:

  • Making it easier than ever before to compare health care costs.
  • Paying a cash reward – up to $500 per procedure – for choosing high-quality, cost-effective locations for their procedure.
  • Using Blue Cross NC’s large local and national network of providers. Customers’ total cost share is less with in-network providers. They are potentially able to save up to thousands of dollars in health care expenses.

 

“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,” said John Roos, chief growth officer of Blue Cross NC. “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.”

 

While all Blue Cross NC members can now use a new and improved Blue Connect to find a health care provider and cost estimates, SmartShopper is available starting with our self-insured, large group (250+) employers. Eligible members enrolled in these workplace health plans are encouraged to compare costs for medical services. They receive personalized messages based on real claims experience.

 

SmartShopper is run through a partnership with Vitals, an independent group offering transparency solutions around cost and quality data. “We’re pleased to partner with Blue Cross NC to help their customers shop for better-value care,” said Heyward Donigan, President and CEO of Vitals. “SmartShopper disrupts the way people choose providers. When consumers have quality and cost information, it gives them the confidence to choose.”

 

How SmartShopper Works

  • Members shop for their prescribed medical procedure. They can go online to Blue Connect, or call SmartShopper’s Personal Assistant Team (PAT). More than 80 medical procedures can be “shopped.”
  • If the member has their procedure done at a reward-eligible location, a check is mailed to their home once the procedure is done and the claim is paid. Customers also save potentially thousands of dollars in medical expenses.

 

In 2011, Blue Cross NC received national attention for its health care cost transparency tool. The company was the first insurer in the nation to make public the average total cost of care for many common procedures. For consumers who want to know what they can expect to pay at the doctor’s office, the tool is a valuable starting point. With a new feature that notifies members when a nearby facility offers the same procedure at a lower cost, our website makes it easier than ever for members to compare costs.

 

 

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina improves the health and well-being of our customers and communities through innovative health care products, insurance, services and information to more than 3.8 million members, including approximately 1 million served on behalf of other Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield plans. Since 1933, we have worked to make North Carolina a better place to live through our support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross NC is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross NC online at bcbsnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.

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[1]  Oliver Wyman analysis, 2017