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BlueCross Helps SC Employers Use Behavioral Science to Encourage Better Health Habits
3/21/2013 1:41:11 PM

Columbia, S.C. – To help employers cope with escalating medical costs and new regulations, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina has expanded its capabilities for large groups (50+ employees) that administer incentive plans to motivate healthy behaviors.

Three new products in particular are gaining traction: plans that reward all employees with incentives for healthy behaviors, plans that enhance benefits for employees with chronic conditions, and plans that include a care advocate who helps fill gaps in services.

“We’ve taken incentive-based plans to the next level. We’re the only insurance company in South Carolina using a behavioral-science approach to help track, monitor and influence a broad set of health behaviors on behalf of a group health plan,” said BlueCross Division President Jim Deyling. “A program has to attract participants to be successful, so the behavioral science plays a major role in customizing plans to engage employees so they’ll be successful.”

A Web-enabled platform by ChipRewards, Inc. ( of Birmingham, Ala., gives BlueCross the ability to track data from a variety of sources, deliver the incentives and report on behaviors. It also draws on the expertise of behavioral scientists to help clients design specific and tailored programs.

In the incentive plans, employers focus on single events or activities. For example, they might require employees to complete a health assessment, or provide ongoing opportunities to reward behaviors. The incentives may be deposits into a health reimbursement account, deductible buy-downs (vanishing deductibles), options from a “merchant mall” of commercial retail items, or premium reductions.

In the benefits modification plans, the employer customizes its plan so that employees with chronic conditions receive a financial break on preventive care services, drugs, supplies or education. BlueCross identifies the employees who qualify. Employees who meet requirements, such as having one-on-one counseling with a BlueCross health coach and sticking to the recommended care guidelines, have lower copayments or other financial incentives.

The advocacy plans integrate with BlueCross’ health coaching, health management for chronic conditions and maternity care, and complex care case management programs. One example of advocacy is help finding community resources for services not covered by the health plan, such as locating elder care.

“As we’ve been collaborating with the medical community to reimburse for results rather than quantity of services, we’re now looking at the next part of the equation – motivating individuals to achieve good health,” said Deyling. “We’re seeing a larger number of South Carolina businesses adopting behavioral-based health plans that engage their employees in their own health. Aligning incentives across payers, providers and consumers is our vision for effective health care reform.”

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