BCBS Tries to Drive Down Costs with Cash Incentives

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Insurers have tried every kind of incentive under the sun to drive consumer adoption of lower-cost healthcare. Now they might be skipping the pretense and going straight to cash rebates.

According to a report from Kaiser Health News, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers in New England and parts of the Midwest are being offered as much as $200 in cash for selecting a cheaper facility to perform diagnostic and elective procedures like MRI, joint replacements, and bariatric surgery.

“At least 24 hours before a member has a scheduled service, he or she calls a toll-free number or logs on to a Web site to get a list of lower-cost local providers,” Kaiser Health reports. “If a doctor has referred someone to a location that's not on the list of cheaper providers, the member can request that the doctor change the referral. If the physician is performing the procedure, the member can ask that the doctor do it at a cheaper location.”

Participation in the program is not mandatory, but patients who opt for the low-cost provider usually walk away with at least $100.

Critics of the plan include physicians who fear that using cost as the sole measure of efficacy rather than the quality of the outcome is misguided.