Posts Tagged ‘BCBSNC’

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After writing my blog post yesterday, I decided to create a Storify to curate many of the Tweets that are flying regarding the current BlueCross BlueShield of NC implosion. Here’s a link to the Storify:


Enjoy! And please share.


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You may have seen the headline last week in Becker’s Hospital Review: “9 things to know about the massive BCBS of NC system failure.” In short, BCBS of NC has imploded, leaving thousands of customers in limbo, waiting to find out if they actually have the health insurance they enrolled for over a month ago. Approximately 25,000 customers were put in the wrong health plans – and billed for those plans. Frankly, I’m stunned that this issue hasn’t received more press coverage locally and nationally. (If a hospital erred this badly, it would make national news and BCBS would be calling for an investigation.) This issue is important because thousands of people in North Carolina are scared. Through no fault of their own, they’re concerned that they no longer have healthcare coverage. They feel powerless to impact the situation. And they don’t know where to turn for help.

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Screenshot of consumer comments on BCBSNC’s Facebook Page

The situation is so bad that the CEO of BCBSNC, Brad Wilson, had to issue a public apology in the form of a blog post. It was a weak apology where he downplayed the scope and impact of the problem – a problem that has continued now for an entire month.

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Customer frustrations have grown to the point where BCBSNC is now fearful and has asked local police to step up patrols around their facilities. Here’s the text from an email BCBSNC sent to its employees about security concerns related to this fiasco:

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The problem:

According to BCBSNC, its service challenges were caused by a new system and a billing company (vendor) error. BCBSNC recently implemented a new customer service record system and it hasn’t gone well. In addition, the company has placed blame on mistakes made by its claims processing and billing vendor.  However, a whistleblower has claimed that BCBSNC knew about the issues well in advance of the current crisis. The staff member said the company decided to move forward with the software switch even though potential problems were foreseeable.

The result:

  • Many customers who signed up online for new health plans that were to go into effect on January 1, 2016, still do not have confirmation that their new plan is active. They are effectively uninsured and in limbo.
  • Customers received renewal notices for plans they did not sign up for – the wrong plan. (My wife was one of those.)
  • Customers have been billed for cancelled policies. BCBSNC administered automatic bank drafts for 3,200 customers for an incorrect amount. If you are one of those customers who has selected a new plan, but received confirmation and billing for the old plan, what are you to do?
  • Many customers have not received confirmation or ID cards for their new plans, while others received incorrect ID cards.
  • Customers report being on hold for hours while trying to reach a BCBS customer service representative. Read the customer comments on BCBSNC’s Facebook page. You’ll definitely see a theme of being on hold for hours; being promised return calls that never come; and reaching customer service representatives who are not equipped to address the issues at hand.
  • BCBSNC encourages customers to private message them to get on a call back list. When customers do that, they receive a message that their case has been upgraded in some way, implying that they will receive priority treatment and that a return call has been scheduled. But for many that call never comes.
  • Customers have also experienced challenges trying to resolve issues online, due to BCBSNC system failures. When they do log on to the Blue Connect system, many report that their account no longer exists or it simply cannot locate their policy information. Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.33.45 AM

If you want to get a feel for the scope of the problem, go to the BCBSNC Facebook page and read some of the customer comments. Here’s a screen shot that captures some of the recent comments on the page:

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If you’d like more information about the BCBSNC Debacle, below are links to some of the articles that have run. One of my favorites is the story about the customer who went to BCBS’ administrative offices and threatened to chain himself to the building until his situation had been resolved.

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 2.09.13 PMThis entire situation has made me wonder if anyone at BCBSNC ever worked in crisis communications? Clearly not. Don’t they have a capable PR firm who advises them on such matters? There is so much more they could be doing to communicate clearly with their members. They should be doing everything they can to alleviate fears. We’re talking about people’s health insurance – their access to affordable prescription medicines – and their financial well being. BCBSNC needs to stop worry about covering its ass, and start spending all of its energy on communicating clearly and managing expectations. It is now January 27th and my wife and stepdaughter still don’t have health insurance. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel – no end in sight. This is because what equates to a big monopoly made a tragic business decision and is now more interested in saving face than in helping its members through this difficult time. In this day of digital communication, BCBSNC has the ability to reach out to its members, assure them that this will be fixed, give a detailed timeline and explanation of the changes they are making, and be transparent. Brad Wilson should be speaking to customers via video on BCBS’ Facebook page with daily updates. “Here’s the progress we made today. Here’s how many issues we resolved. We took 30,000 inbound calls. We reached out to 5,000 customers with return calls. Here are the problems we ran into and how we’re addressing them. The computer system was down for 90 minutes.” This should happen every day until this situation is resolved! BCBSNC’s handling of this situation is so disappointing, to say the least.


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Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 12.00.20 PMBCBS of North Carolina recently launched a new video to explain healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act to its members. It is a very friendly, non-threatening presentation of the issues involved although they do dwell on the negative (potential increase in cost of health insurance premiums for individuals). Frankly, it’s a nice use of online video (I believe it also aired in a shorter version as a TV commercial). From a creative perspective, I love the accessible tone and design of this video. However, the content, in my opinion, does little to answer the questions of consumers and perhaps raises more questions than it answers. It certainly does nothing to relieve individuals of their concerns about how the ACA might impact them.

Here’s the text that introduces the video on YouTube:

“The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, will be in full swing by January 2014. But many people still have questions about what the ACA is and how it will impact them. Understand how ACA could affect your coverage and costs, and learn about your options for finding a plan that’s right for you. BCBSNC is dedicated to helping you find an insurance plan that meets your needs and to keeping premiums as affordable as possible. To find out more, visit NCHealthReform.com.”

Here’s a well-crafted video from the Kaiser Family Foundation, dealing with the same subject matter, but giving a more balanced view:

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina recently launched a new TV campaign. It caught my attention so I thought I’d share it here. The campaign contains powerful messaging that directly addresses consumers’ uncertainly at a time when the healthcare landscape is changing:

“Free of worry, Free of fear. Free of uncertainty. Uncover that feeling again because you are protected with the compassion of the cross and the security of the shield.”

“…go back to a time when you were braver than you even knew. You can go there again because you have the power of a card that opens doors in all 50 states.”

Check out these TV commercials from the campaign:

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Here’s a good news story for the holiday season – and my good news stories don’t often include stories of collaboration between payers and providers! Enjoy.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), and the UNC School of Medicine (UNC) are collaborating to create a physician assistant (PA) master’s degree program designed for returning military veterans with input from the United States Army Special Operations Command team at Fort Bragg, N.C. The program will build on the medical experience and training that Special Forces Medical Sergeants receive during their service and provide opportunities for veterans who want to transfer their unique and hard-earned skills into the health care system. This collaborative effort will improve health care access for North Carolinians by reducing the shortage of health care professionals in our state.

BCBSNC has pledged $1.2 million over the next four years to help UNC establish the master’s curriculum and hire full-time program staff. A significant portion of the grant will provide scholarship funds through the Medical Foundation of North Carolina to assist Special Forces Medical Sergeants who have transitioned out of the military. The program will be based in the School of Medicine’s Department of Allied Health Sciences.

The United States and North Carolina are facing a deepening shortage of doctors and primary care physicians. Some figures estimate that by 2020, there will be a national shortage of about 150,000 physicians and 65,000 primary care physicians. And in North Carolina, almost 1 million people live in areas that do not have enough health care professionals to effectively serve their communitiesii. UNC will create a two-year curriculum with training rotations at UNC Hospitals and free clinics around the state. The program’s training will focus on primary care to meet the needs of underserved communities in North Carolina.

Research has indicated there will be high interest and participation in the program. A 2010 national survey of Special Forces Medical Sergeants revealed that nine out of ten respondents wanted to pursue a career in health care outside of a military setting, and about half were interested in becoming PAs.

The UNC Master’s of Physician Assistant Studies degree program, pending approval by the Board of Governors, is in the early planning stages and plans to enroll its first class of student veterans in 2015.


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(File this post under shameless self-promotion.) One of the people I enjoy connecting with when I attend healthcare marketing conferences is Michele von Dambrowski, publisher of eHealthcare Strategy & Trends. I’ve known Michele for a number of years and she has graciously attended several of my presentations. Recently, Michele and her editor, Mark Gothberg, approached me about writing an article for eHealthcare Strategy & Trends.  The topic they wanted me to cover was “crowdsourcing among hospitals and health plans.” I’ve been intrigued by crowdsourcing and jumped at the opportunity. My article is included in the March 2012 issue of the publication.

As part of my research for the article, I was fortunate to interview Lee Aase, Director of Mayo Clinic’s Center for Social Media, Miles Appel, Director of Internal Web Capability for Kaiser Permanente, and Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur. (If you aren’t familiar with Andrew Keen, you should definitely check him out. He is a fascinating individual.) Even better, bear in mind that this is an article about crowdsourcing in healthcare, I was able to integrate a quote from Alexander Hamilton, one of the political philosophers whose thinking informed the development of our form of government. In the end, it was a lot of fun researching and writing this article. Organizations like Mayo Clinic, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, and the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center are innovating through the use of crowdsourcing programs.  I definitely invite you to learn more about crowdsourcing in healthcare, and , if you have time, to read the article. If you don’t subscribe to eHealthcare Strategy & Trends, you can learn more about the publication by clicking here.

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BCBSNC Foundation Challenges North Carolinians to Get Inspired, Inspire Others

Making a difference in light of daunting realities is the theme for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation’s new digital storytelling initiative –Inspired (http://www.inspirednc.org>). In an effort to showcase the contributions of local leaders and groups who sometimes go unnoticed, Inspired spotlights the philanthropic works of North Carolina nonprofit organizations and community leaders who are changing their communities for the better. The effort captures the passion and dedication of some of the state’s unsung heroes who are working diligently to improve the lives of their neighbors. This is reminiscent of CNN’s Hometown Heroes initiative – a program recognizing “everyday people changing the world.”

“We recognize that every day in towns and cities across the state, North Carolinians are rolling up their sleeves and making a difference in their communities and the state as a whole,” says Kathy Higgins, president of the BCBSNC Foundation. “We are in awe of the feats many of these organizations have accomplished – they’re committed to a bigger solution and are working tirelessly to succeed. They’ve inspired those closest to them, they’ve inspired us, and now we hope they will inspire others across our state.”

“These stories need to be told. They deserve to be told. You see, these aren’t faceless organizations, these are everyday people who have made the very deliberate choice of improving the world around them. A dentist who could be practicing anywhere, yet he has chosen to be where he is needed most. A family doctor and his medical student who still see value in and make time for house calls. And the hundreds of women in and around Kinston who are making lifelong bonds and life-changing health decisions thanks to the efforts of one woman.” (Kathy Higgins, Inspirednc Blog)

One of the most exciting elements of Inspired is the opportunity for visitors to the site to support the work of those BCBSNC Foundation grantees featured in the stories. Each time an online user shares a story through Facebook, Twitter or email, the BCBSNC Foundation will contribute $1 to a fund that will be divided among the nonprofits highlighted on the site. The goal of the campaign is to have stories shared 100,000 times, resulting in $100,000 for these worthy organizations. The nonprofits included in Inspired are:

  • Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project
  • Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation
  •  Charlotte Community Health Clinic (North Carolina Association of Free Clinics)
  • Greene County Health, Inc.
  • North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians
  • North Carolina Council of Churches
  • North Carolina Dental Health Fund
  • North Carolina Parent Teacher Association
  • Southside United Health Center
  • Sparkplugs for a Healthy North Carolina (The Rensselaerville Institute)

“It is a real honor to have our work showcased in such a way,” said Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “Our goal through Kids in Parks is to get children and families outside. The message we want to share is get unplugged and get outdoors. Ironically, we hope sharing this message online is an “aha” moment for parents to disconnect and go outside with their families. That’s a message we feel is worth forwarding on to your family and friends.”

“It’s no small task to mobilize a whole generation to get more active, or to take dental care where it is most needed, but that’s what these nonprofits are doing. They are the lifeline for communities in need,” added Higgins. “The challenges being faced are enormous in size, but the stories of people helping people should inspire us all to pass the message along – because the more people we reach the healthier our communities can become.”

Since the site launched on January 26, 2012, there have been more than 1,000 social shares and 3,056 unique visits to the site. Visit the Inspirednc blog at http://inspirednc.org/blog.

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