Updated April 18 at 3:26pm

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Health INSURANCE

Blue Cross adds new product for large group market

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PROVIDENCE – A new health insurance product called VantageBlue was announced Wednesday by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island. The health plan is being targeted at the large group market of employers in Rhode Island with more than 50 employees, according to Blue Cross officials.

The plan seeks to address the top concerns of employers – to improve the health of their employees and keep health care costs lower, according to Jim Gallagher, vice president of Product Development at Blue Cross.

“Wellness programs have emerged at the forefront of employers’ long-term strategy for controlling costs, which is why we’ve designed VantageBlue with features that encourage employees to proactively take control of their health,” Gallagher told Providence Business News.

According to Gallagher, one of the goals of the new insurance product was to provide incentives to customers in large groups to utilize patient-centered medical homes, the innovative model of health care delivery services that Blue Cross is championing through its network.

Currently, Blue Cross has invested in more than 60 patient-centered medical homes, which include about 25 percent of Rhode Island primary care providers, according to Gallagher.

The promotion of patient-centered medical homes also helps Blue Cross to comply with the contract conditions set by the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner to support primary care in Rhode Island, said Gallagher.

Under VantageBlue, the plan encourages employees to see a provider at a Blue Cross-designated patient-centered medical home, offering “$0 copays for all visits,” according to Gallagher.

By seeking care at a patient-center medical home, employees can maintain an ongoing relationship with a primary care provider who leads a team of healthcare professionals in building an integrated and proactive plan designed to improve health, said Blue Cross officials.

VantageBlue also offers $0 copays for annual foot and eye exams for employees with diabetes, and low copay options for physical, orthopedic and speech therapy. Additionally, VantageBlue covers up to 20 chiropractic visits and gives employees access to preventive education courses – such as diabetes education, nutritional counseling, and smoking cessation counseling – free of charge.

Under the new plan, Blue Cross also provides employers with riders for vision hardware, acupuncture and hearing aids.

“VantageBlue provides employees with the tools they need to better manage chronic conditions and also helps to eliminate the financial barriers often associated with coping with certain ailments,” Gallagher said. “As a result, they will be healthier individuals, require fewer medical services, and help keep costs low for themselves and their employer.”

The introduction of a new health plan targeted at the large group market may also be seen as a strategic move to counter the historic trend of a decrease in the number of covered lives in the large group insurance market between 2005 and 2011, where the net change for Blue Cross was a drop of 19 percent, or 45,592 covered lives, according to the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner analysis of commercial private insurance enrollment published in April.

VantageBlue is available to large employers for enrollment now with an effective date of October 1, 2012.

BCBSRI, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Blue Cross, VantageBlue,

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