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Get Paid to Shop – For Health Care

By Steve Crist | July 17, 2018 | Insurance Education

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You wouldn’t buy a plane ticket without knowing the real cost. But that’s what many North Carolinians do when it comes to their health care.

We know that navigating the health care system and figuring out what you can expect to pay, is one of the most complex and frustrating issues that many of us face. National studies have shown that North Carolinians pay much more for health care than nearly all other states, currently ranking #50 on certain cost measures[1]. In fact, right here in North Carolina, the cost of a procedure can differ by thousands of dollars even within the same town.

Knowing Where Your Health Care Dollar Goes

In just 10 years, a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) analysis show that some North Carolinians will spend up to 25 percent of their take-home pay solely on medical expenses. As the largest organization in the state that insures many North Carolinians for most of their lives, we have a responsibility to do what we can to reverse these alarming trends.

And it starts with simplifying the health care process. We want consumers to know they can easily save money on one of their largest household expenses, by giving them the tools they need to make informed health care choices and get the most for their dollar.

In 2012, we introduced HealthNavSM, a tool that lets our members compare the cost and quality of health care procedures. In 2015, we made our cost data public. Everyone in NC can now search common procedures using our cost transparency tool.

In 2018 we rolled out a new program called SmartShopper, a cost-saving program that helps improve the bottom line by paying employees to shop for certain medical procedures. It has been so successful we are now making it available for any traditional self-insured employer.


SmartShopper is a cost transparency incentive program that makes it simpler than ever to find certain, lower-cost medical procedures. Members can price shop over 80 common procedures like colonoscopies and CT scans and get paid cash for visiting SmartShopper eligible providers.

How does it work? 

The Big Picture

Transparency has become the norm for most industries. The health care field can no longer play by a different set of rules. People can’t be in the dark about costs until bills come in the mail.

Improving access to pricing and quality data can help patients cut their health care costs. It also helps them make informed choices about their care. This is critical if we want to change health care, making it simpler to understand, more affordable and customer-focused.

We’re excited about our range of tools that help simplify the health care experience, especially our new SmartShopper tool. These tools can’t fix the health care system overnight, but we think they’re a step in the right direction.

Sources: [1] WalletHub

SmartShopper, powered by Sapphire Digital, is a value-added service offered to ASO groups 51+, self-funded large group (250+) employers and additional fees may apply. The program is not part of the member’s policy or benefits and may be changed or discontinued at any time. The program is currently not available for Blue Cross NC fully insured lines of business. Sapphire Digital does not offer Blue Cross or Blue Shield products. HealthNAV is a service mark of Blue Cross NC. Blue Connect is a service mark of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.