Friday, January 06, 2006

BCBSMO Press Release 4/27/2005

BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF MISSOURIOFFERS MEMBERS CONVENIENCE OFREFERRAL-FREE VISITS
ST. LOUIS, MO – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri now offers group members new options through its new BlueCHOICE Open Access health maintenance organization (HMO) and point-of-service (POS) plans. With these open access plans, members do not need to select a primary care physician or obtain a referral when they go to any BlueCHOICE network physicians, hospitals and other health care professionals. HMO Missouri, Inc., a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri, does business in Missouri as BlueCHOICE.
"These plans offer employers a new, comprehensive, affordable option with the convenience of referral-free visits to network physicians, hospitals and other health care professionals," said Dennis Matheis, general manager, Large Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri.
"The open access plans provide the same benefit options and comprehensive core benefits as our regular BlueCHOICE Value Plus and POS plans, plus the freedom of choice provided by our PPO plans."
As with the regular BlueCHOICE POS plan, Open Access plan members still can receive care at non-network providers at a lower level of benefits for most care. Similar to the regular POS plan, certain care is only covered at network physicians, hospitals and other health care professionals. All BlueCHOICE plans use the BlueCHOICE network with 6,700 physicians and 63 counties. BlueCHOICE is available in 52 Missouri counties.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri is the oldest and largest health benefits company in Missouri. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri is an operating subsidiary of WellPoint, Inc., the nation's largest publicly traded commercial health benefits company serving the health care needs of approximately 28 million medical members nationally. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri is independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and can be found on the web at www.bcbsmo.com
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri is the name RightCHOICE Managed Care Inc. (RIT) uses to do business in most of Missouri. RIT and certain affiliates administer non-HMO benefits underwritten by Healthy Alliance Life Insurance Company (HALIC) and HMO benefits underwritten by HMO Missouri, Inc. HMO Missouri, Inc. does business as BlueCHOICE. RightCHOICE and certain affiliates only provide administrative services for self-funded plans and do not underwrite benefits. RightCHOICE, HMO Missouri, Inc. and HALIC are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

BCBS Press Release 12/14/2005

(CHICAGO) Programs created by BlueCross and BlueShield of Western New York (BCBSWNY) and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio (Anthem) were recognized today for their efforts to improve the consistency and effectiveness of care delivered in network hospitals. The initiatives were selected by researchers at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy as part of BCBSA’s BlueWorks initiative – a quarterly review of innovations from Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that are the building blocks to achieving the Blue System’s vision for a knowledge-driven healthcare system.These programs represent a system-wide effort by Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to work collaboratively with network hospitals to improve consistency of care for consumers. Studies by other investigators have shown that patients typically receive recommended care just 55 percent of the time.1Both BCBSWNY and Anthem developed comprehensive, quality-focused programs designed to help participating hospitals make improvements on specific measurable performance indicators. Each program uses quality metrics to evaluate the performance of network hospitals.“Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies believe that improving effectiveness of care for consumers begins with improving consistency nationwide,” said Scott P. Serota, President and CEO of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). “Costs, utilization and use of evidence-based guidelines vary greatly region by region, community by community. The Blue vision for better healthcare is based on strong collaboration with providers and making knowledge work to improve the consistency and effectiveness of care.“These programs demonstrate how strong local teamwork between insurers, hospitals and other healthcare professionals can improve care quality. If we follow the leadership demonstrated by these programs, we can start to realize better, more affordable care for consumers nationwide.”The BlueWorks winning programs will be presented today as part of an online media briefing on hospital cost and quality and how to make knowledge work to improve care for consumers. The briefing will feature senior executives from BlueCross and BlueShield of Western New York, WellPoint, Inc. (Antehm), BCBSA and a member of the BlueWorks review team from Harvard Medical School. The briefing can be accessed by phone at 800-288-9626. Presentations can be viewed online at http://attewc.webex.com/attewc/onstage/g.php?d=881725319.BlueWorks – a unique collaboration between BCBSA and the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy – evaluates programs for their importance to the healthcare system, potential applicability in other communities and level of innovation.“When measuring hospital performance, it is very important that the metrics and goals are well defined and agreed on,” said Barbara McNeil, M.D., Head of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy. “These programs, while having slightly different goals, were well defined and comprehensive in their scope.”Improving consistency and effectiveness of care requires efficient use of the vast amounts of data available in the healthcare system. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield System has embarked on several national and local efforts to make this information work to benefit provider, employers and consumers. The programs from BCBSWNY and Anthem represent best practices in making knowledge work to enable doctors and hospitals to consistently deliver the best care.BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York’s “Hospital and Physician Incentive Program” is a comprehensive quality improvement program, focused on underperforming areas at network hospitals. It was designed to address barriers to successful expansion of quality incentive programs by reducing the perception that incentive programs were an attempt to limit fee increases.To address these concerns, BCBSWNY provided a list of agreed upon metrics, from which network hospitals selected a unique set of 4-6 clinical quality indicators, tailored to the services available at that facility and its current performance. Incentives were linked to performance on chosen measures.Clinical quality measures in some of BCBSNY’s network hospitals showed marked improvement after the program was introduced, including reduced cardiac surgery mortality. Though the clinical and health outcomes data have been impressive, the program also has improved relationships with hospitals while helping to improve the quality of care for BCBSWNY members.Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s “Hospital Quality Program” is a multifaceted, comprehensive quality initiative that stratifies hospitals by size to make comparison easier and more relevant. It was designed to reduce variation in practice patterns and outcomes among network hospitals. Originally launched in Ohio, the program now includes 357 hospitals in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.Each participating network hospital receives an annual request for information (RFI) that consists of 10 core measures developed in collaboration with participating hospitals, accrediting bodies and quality organizations. Once the RFI is completed, data are entered into a confidential database, aggregated and analyzed. In return, hospitals receive a report card with their overall score as well as comparisons to their peer hospitals, matched by size for ease of comparison. Incentives are paid to high-performing hospitals, while lower-performing hospitals were approached in a collaborative fashion to improve the quality of care delivered.The Hospital Quality Program has been successful in improving quality at participating hospitals. Measures such as medication interaction checks, behavioral healthcare coordination and pneumoccocal infection handling have demonstrated consistent improvements.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Assurant/Time Press Release 9/6/2005

Assurant Health Reintroduces Time Insurance Company
Reconnects Brokers to Trusted Health Insurance Tradition and Future of Healthcare Financing
Milwaukee, WI – Assurant Health, a leading national provider of Individual Medical, Small Group and Specialty health insurance products, announced today the underwriting arm known as Fortis Insurance Company, will return to the long-established, trusted, Time Insurance Company name.
As health insurance choices grow increasingly complex, the Time Insurance Company gives insurance brokers and their customers a venerable name they can recognize and respect. The Time Insurance Company remains committed to providing innovative, market-driven products and innovations such as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and its new RightStart™ affordable individual medical policies. It also offers brokers a growing number of cutting-edge tools and training opportunities that make these products easy to understand and sell.
The reintroduction of the Time Insurance Company comes at a time of unprecedented focus on health insurance by consumers and employers. This interest is driving the meteoric growth of non-traditional products like Health Savings Accounts, where Assurant Health is a market leader. Since providing the country’s first HSA, the company has received more than 200,000 applications so far, 40 percent from individuals with no prior medical coverage.
The Time Insurance Company has earned the trust and confidence of brokers and consumers alike since April 8, 1892, when it wrote its first policy in La Crosse, Wisconsin, as La Crosse Mutual Aid Association. Its “Time” policies initially provided disability insurance, more commonly referred to as “Sickness and Accident Insurance.” As it evolved, the Time Insurance Company relocated from La Crosse, Wisconsin to Milwaukee; introduced new products; became Fortis Health; and under the Fortis Health name grew into the leading national provider of Individual Medical insurance.
“Throughout its history, the Time Insurance Company has always been known for supporting our agents, our customers and our community. A century later its insurance options are more valuable than ever,” said Laura Hohing, Senior Vice President, Sales. “This change reiterates that Time is on your side when you need us.”
For more than 113 years, the Time Insurance Company has maintained a solid reputation for high quality products, financial stability and a commitment to the health insurance industry. The Time Insurance Company offers a complete portfolio of Individual Medical and Small Group plans, which include Health Savings Accounts, comprehensive major medical plans as well as lower cost major medical plans, Short Term Medical insurance and Health Reimbursement Arrangements.
For more information about the Time Insurance Company and its health insurance products, please visit www.assuranthealth.com. About Assurant HealthIn business since 1892, Assurant Health provides health insurance coverage for more than one million people nationwide. Assurant Health develops and provides a wide range of Individual Medical, Small Group, Short Term and Student health insurance products, as well as non-insurance products. Assurant Health also provides consumer-choice products such as Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements. With almost 3,000 employees, Assurant Health is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has operations offices in Minnesota, Idaho and Florida, as well as sales offices across the country. Assurant Health products are issued and underwritten by Time Insurance Company, John Alden Life Insurance Company and Union Security Insurance Company. The Assurant Health Web site is www.assuranthealth.com.
Assurant Health is part of Assurant, a premier provider of specialized insurance products and related services in North America and selected other markets. Its five key business units – Assurant Employee Benefits, Assurant Health, Assurant Preneed, Assurant Solutions and Assurant Specialty Property – have partnered with clients who are leaders in their industries and have built leadership positions in a number of specialty market segments in the U.S. and selected international markets. Assurant is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AIZ. The Assurant Web site is www.assurant.com.