• Almost $200 per member per year savings for two-year study of program
  • Almost $450,000 combined savings for roughly 1,200 participants studied over two years
  • Medical expenses were one-third less than the average medical trend
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Ed Silberhorn retired almost three years ago at 56. But lack of regular exercise sent him into a retirement revelation: If he wanted to live stress free and have the energy to enjoy his days of freedom, he needed to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
That’s why Silberhorn took part in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s (BCBSNC) Healthy Lifestyle Choices – a program that offers tools and resources to help participants engage in regular exercise and nutritious eating. Results were just released from BCBSNC’s two-year study (2005-2006) of 1,171 participants comparing their average medical costs before and after enrolling in the program.
Simple lifestyle changes added up to big savings – $187 annually per participating member. Savings over the two-year period totaled $437,729 for the participants studied. Medical expenses were one-third less than the average medical trend. The implication: Living a healthier lifestyle can save money.
“The evidence speaks for itself. There’s money to be saved when people get serious about their health,” said Helen Darling, president of National Business Group on Health. “Businesses should take note, that healthier behaviors not only result in healthier workers, but it’s one way to keep rising medical costs in check. Now that’s a result we can and should go after.”
In addition, participants significantly increased how many days they exercised each week and ate more fruits and vegetables. The results suggest that inactivity and obesity aren’t just personal risks people take, but are contributing to the rising cost of health care cost of health care.
“Our job is to help people live healthier lives,” said Dr. Don Bradley, a family physician and chief medical officer at BCBSNC. “We know it’s the right thing to do, and now economically, it looks like the smart thing to do. This isn’t just a quick fix. We’re looking for a true lifestyle change and that’s why we offer people the tools they need over the long-term to improve their health.”
According to a 2007 report by the Trust for America’s Health, North Carolina has the 17th highest rate of adult obesity and the fifth highest rate of overweight youths (ages 10-17) in the nation. In 2004, BCBSNC found that members who are overweight cost the company 18 percent more than normal weight members in medical claims and expenses, and obese members cost 32 percent more. Preventive health programs from BCBSNC are aiming to curb that trend.
“The program appealed to me because it was proactive,” Silberhorn said. “Why wait until something happens, when you can take charge and try to prevent issues?”
Since joining the program, Silberhorn started walking a quarter mile a dayin his neighborhood and, made healthy changes to his grocery list and, adding in breakfast foods (a meal he had typically skipped) and cutting on his coffee intake. He also started doing a few sit-ups, push-ups and repetitions with 15-pound dumbbells each morning. His efforts impacted not only the bottom line, but his waist line. Silberhorn lost 12 pounds and has kept it off for more than a year. The results didn’t stop there. During his last physical, his doctor was satisfied with his progress and even recommended that he go off one of his prescription medications.
“I saw that as a real positive,” Silberhorn said. “It was really reaffirming that my lifestyle changes had made a positive difference.”
The success of Healthy Lifestyle Choices has  program led BCBSNC to expand its healthy living offerings. The program is now part of BCBSNC’s Member Health PartnershipsSM, which gives members access to a wide variety of health and disease management resources. Participants receive a step counter, lifestyle diary and a stress management CD. They also have access to other helpful online tools that helps them in making decisions about their fitness, stress levels and eating habits.
Recently added benefits were also added over the past year and include one-on-one health coaching, where members can talk to a registered nurse about losing weight, chronic conditions or any other health issues. Most members who enroll also have access to six free nutritional visits.
“I think the baby boomer generation is retiring earlier and expecting to live longer, so the impact of medical costs is a real concern,” Silberhorn said. “But if you can be proactive and take more responsibility for your health, you might help to contain the costs and have a happier, healthier retirement. The program gave me the motivation and information I needed to accomplish, and hopefully maintain, my goal.”
Employers or individuals who have BCBSNC insurance may visit bcbsnc.com/whatsnew to enroll or learn more about the program1.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to nearly 3.6 million members, including approximately 825,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 74 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolinathrough 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 bcbsnc.com.  
1 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) provides the Member Health Partnerships program for your convenience and is not liable in any way for the services received. BCBSNC reserves the right to discontinue or changes the program at any time. Some employers have elected not to make the BCBSNC Member Health Partnerships program available to their employees. Check with your benefits administrator to determine your eligibility. Benefits available through the Member Health Partnerships program are subject to your current benefit plan and pre-existing waiting periods.
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