Blue Cross and Blue Shield to clarify healthcare costs

CHICAGO: As drastic cutbacks within companies has led to employers passing on healthcare costs to employees, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) has embarked on a four-year campaign to educate people on the controversial issue.

CHICAGO: As drastic cutbacks within companies has led to employers passing on healthcare costs to employees, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) has embarked on a four-year campaign to educate people on the controversial issue.

The association is addressing the increased need for information by a public that is having to develop a keener interest in the cost of healthcare, and where its money is going.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about healthcare costs because people are so far removed from it," explained Iris Shaffer, managing director of corporate communications for BCBSA. "It is a very unique buying proposition in that it is not always clear to people what they are paying for."

Last month, BCBSA held a press conference to brief reporters and editors on findings from its research on the drivers of healthcare costs. Powell Tate was appointed to help with this first major piece of the multiyear campaign.

The research, which analyzes inpatient hospital, outpatient, and physician costs, was presented by Scott Serota, BCBSA's CEO. He also gave examples of how the provider is addressing healthcare affordability and working to reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

The campaign, which began early this year and will extend for another three years, is focused largely on facts. As a result, most of the media announcements have been tied to research. The conference held last month was geared mainly toward data on hospital costs, but Shaffer said the focus will expand to include physician and pharmaceutical costs as the campaign progresses.

So far, BCBSA has been mostly targeting opinion leaders. But, citing the introduction of a "major consumer component in 2003," Shaffer noted a step toward consumer engagement is to come. She said BCBSA will be employing one or two agencies to work alongside its internal team of 12 on the new consumer efforts.

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