GREENSBORO, N.C. —
Don’t overlook what’s about to come to your mailbox. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is mailing out 600,000 “retail cards”. Basically, it is a gift card you can use for items from food to exercise equipment.
The mailings come in a regular envelope pre-paid with BCBS of NC on the return address. It will say there is a wellness gift for you inside.
The card will have anywhere from $100 to $500 on it. Look for the mailings in your mailbox from Oct. 19 to Nov. 1.
“It will allow them to basically buy household (goods), food, wellness expenses, at various retail shops. These cards are a fast, flexible way to share the funds without impacting their premiums. This will not cause customer's premiums to increase,” said Mitch Perry, CFO BCBSNC.
What you can use the retail cards for? Food, health-related expenses, over the counter medications, first aid supplied, vitamins, exercise equipment, baby care items
Where can you use the card? Some of the big-name retailers include Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Dollar General, and Family Dollar
What can't you use it for? Your insurance premiums, co-pays or deductibles, prescription drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and firearms. The card will reject any purchases of these items.
*So, if you're doing your grocery shopping with this card, make sure you don't include that bottle of wine and you pay for it on your own dime. Otherwise, the card could reject your whole purchase.
How much will you get?
“We have different premium levels based on coverage so it is tied to the underlying cost of the products the members had, so those who have more expensive products get the higher gift card and those who have the lower expensive products get the lower gift card,” explained Perry.
The retail cards are for those enrolled in the under 65 individual customers and fully insured employer groups. The cards do not have an expiration date. Once the cards are mailed, BCBSNC will have a place on their website to answer questions, including if you happen to throw away your card by mistake. The total for the cards is $200,000,000.
Where did they get this money? According to the BCBS release, it is from the Risk Corridor Program. These were the funds the government set aside before the Affordable Care Act. The funds were to protect insurers from losses. Here is a sample from the release:
Risk Corridor Program Funds
Blue Cross NC is able to fund these health and wellness retail cards for the direct benefit of its members from the monies received from the federal government following litigation related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) temporary risk corridor program.
In April 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the federal government is required to follow-through on the promise of the ACA risk corridor program that covered years 2014 through 2016. While not intended to protect insurers from all losses in the ACA marketplace, the risk corridor program provided an appropriate and necessary backstop on losses for insurers that were willing to serve people in the new marketplace.
In addition to the health and wellness retail cards, Blue Cross NC applied the remaining risk corridor funds to help keep 2021 rates for many of its customers lower. The company has been working hard to contain rates for several years and has achieved results. For example, for 2021, ACA plans offered to individuals will be reduced by an average of one percent on a statewide basis, the third straight year that Blue Cross NC has lowered ACA rates and a three-year cumulative reduction since 2018 of nearly $1 billion.