DURHAM, N.C. – As the health care industry shifts toward personalized, value-based care, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) is doubling down on its efforts to improve individual and community health outcomes with a new long-term plan addressing non-medical drivers of health, like access to healthy food and transportation, that have a significant impact on well-being.
With an initial focus on food security, the insurer is advancing its work to promote health equity with new prevention programs and value-added services. Beyond just offering these services for members, the insurer is also measuring their impact. This research will identify which steps will be effective long-term strategies for eliminating health disparities, strengthening communities, developing impactful member products and reducing health care costs for North Carolinians.
“We recognize that access to healthy food drives our whole health, so we’re being strategic to help more individuals get better access to nutrition and the other resources they need to achieve their best health,” said Blue Cross NC President and CEO Dr. Tunde Sotunde. “Having served the people of North Carolina for nearly a century, we are ideally equipped to lead this journey. We know that healthier individuals mean healthier communities, and in the end that lowers costs for everyone."
The focus on food security comes at a time when more than 600,000 North Carolinians are struggling to put food on the table and North Carolina maintains its ranking as the nation’s tenth hungriest state. Studies show that a lack of food security leads to an increased risk of chronic health conditions. Not only does this increase the health care costs for the individual directly impacted, it also overtaxes local resources and drives up costs for everyone.
Blue Cross NC’s multi-pronged, whole-person approach aims to improve health and reverse chronic conditions through healthier food in the following areas:
- To ensure all individuals can access the foods they need to improve and maintain their health, Blue Cross NC is working with Benefits Data Trust (BDT), Manna Food Bank, Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina and Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC to increase enrollment in Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The collaboration is designed to raise awareness of the program, destigmatize participation, reduce barriers to enrollment and provide support through the enrollment process.
- A separate prescription-based food purchasing program, Eat Well, which is led by Durham-based Reinvestment Partners, provides eligible members with a monthly benefit stipend, which can be used to purchase fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables without added sugar or salt.
Medicare and Medicaid Members:
- The post-discharge meal program offers eligible Blue Medicare Advantage members meal services tailored to their individual health and nutritional needs after their acute hospital stay.
- Blue Cross NC’s Medicaid managed care plan, Healthy Blue, offers value-added services for qualifying members, including three months of fresh vegetables and fruits for members with a diagnosis of obesity or diabetes (up to $40 monthly value).
Improving health for members with chronic conditions
- The Food Delivery/Health Coaching model offers eligible members with type 2 diabetes who are also experiencing food insecurity one-on-one nutrition health coaching and healthy food delivery through Pack Health.
- The Virta Health program aims to reverse type 2 diabetes for members through an innovative virtual care model that offers online access to a nutrition health coach and on-demand nutritional resources.
Additionally, the company is evolving its efforts to address other critical drivers of health, including social isolation, transportation and housing.
- In collaboration with Papa, Inc., Blue Cross NC is addressing interconnected drivers of health, specifically transportation, social isolation and food security by providing eligible members with on-demand companionship and assistance with everyday tasks, including transportation to doctors’ appointments and grocery delivery.
So far, more than 2,000 members are enrolled in these test models. Data measures from most of these programs will help shape informed decisions about which approaches should be continued or scaled up – laying the framework for more large-scale efforts and allowing for greater diversity in future collaborations to address drivers of health.
Philanthropic Support, Capacity Building and Investments
This plan builds on Blue Cross NC’s existing philanthropic efforts to increase access to healthy foods and other vital supports for optimal health, including the company’s historic COVID-19 response and its cumulative investment of $7.1 million to help underserved individuals get better access to nutritious food and to help communities and farmers bring structural change to the state’s food system.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) is committed to making health care better, simpler and more affordable. We have been driving better health in North Carolina since 1933, working to tackle our communities’ greatest health challenges. Blue Cross NC serves its customers and communities of more than 3.8 million members, including approximately 1.1 million on behalf of other Blue Plans. Blue Cross NC is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross NC online at www.bluecrossnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.