By Brad Wilson, CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
I hope you’ve seen or heard about our Let’s Talk Cost initiative. Sometimes people ask me why we are running commercials and promoting a website dedicated to rising health care costs. I think a better question is: Why didn’t we, and others in the health insurance industry, shine a light on this issue sooner?
It’s important that all of us understand the cost of the health care we receive and how it impacts the amount we pay for health insurance. After all, consumers are paying more than ever for health care: An average of $4,560 in insurance premiums alone in 2013, not counting out-of-pocket costs. That’s up from $3,360 in 2008, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
As North Carolina’s leading health insurer, we think we have a responsibility to our customers and to North Carolina to provide accurate information about the true cost of health care and what we can all do about reining in that cost. Yes, we include ourselves in that equation by working to run our company as efficiently as we can.
The high cost of health care affects more people in more ways than we can imagine. Even with health insurance, a family’s budget can take a hit from copayments and deductibles. The price of many of the goods we buy is higher because of health care costs. Employees in some companies may not get a raise — or as much of a raise as they would otherwise — because their employer is paying more for health care.
There are many reasons for this continued rise in costs, which are outlined at our Let’s Talk Cost site. One of the causes is something we can all work to address: unhealthy lifestyles. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more relevant than it is today. But too few heed this sage advice. As a result, a substantial portion of health care costs is directly related to lifestyle choices that have negative health consequences. And we all pay for the consequences of these poor choices.
We learned when we launched Let’s Talk Cost three years ago that few people understood why medical costs were so high. Fewer realized that the high cost of care was directly related to the high cost of insurance. Let’s Talk Cost has been an effective medium through which to inform and stimulate conversation and action to help address this problem.
I believe we have been able to ratchet up the conversation on health care costs, and I’m hearing about more efforts across North Carolina to have productive conversations than can lead to solutions to the health cost challenge.
We have some momentum for addressing this issue. For this reason, we are continuing Let’s Talk Cost with new information on our site, and new commercials, so that we can collaborate with others in an effort to find those solutions.
We invite you to join in the conversation. We want to hear from you.
Brad Wilson is president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. He is dedicated to improving North Carolina’s health care system, making health care more affordable and helping BCBSNC adapt in a changing health care environment. Brad also is a director of both the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), and is chair of the National Institute for Health Care Management.