Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts last week launched a strategy that attaches a money-back guarantee to services originating at the company's eight freestanding health centers.
And the company wants some takers.
Eligibility for the guarantee will hinge on where insured patients get their care, not what plan they're in, said Matt Kelliher, executive director of the Blues' healthcare centers division.
That includes patients insured by Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance carriers in addition to the Blues' indemnity and managed-care plans, as long as a patient is seeing a physician practicing at one of the health centers or a physician referred by one of the center's physicians, Mr. Kelliher said.
Anyone unsatisfied with service provided at the health center can fill out a card invoking the guarantee, and the Blues will pay the person's share of the next month's insurance premium. The average payment is $35 to $40 but can reach $200 for self-employed people, said Colleen Martin, a Blues senior representative involved in policymaking.
While not the first instance of a healthcare concern offering a money-back guarantee, the move is highly unusual for a major provider or insurer.
"We actually hope some people will invoke it," said Mr. Kelliher. The thinking is that the strategy will advertise the centers' responsiveness to patients and improve quality by keeping caregivers on their toes.
"It gives us information to know how to improve quickly," he said. "We see this as (patients') prescription to us."
Mr. Kelliher knew of two patients invoking the guarantee on the first day of the program, which is in place at centers in Methuen, Braintree, Framingham and Peabody in eastern Massachusetts. The guarantee will be instituted later this year at four cities in the western part of the state. The centers see about 105,000 patients a year.
The company also wants to stimulate choices based on actual care, not just on economic and contracting factors that predominate on the employer level, Mr. Kelliher said.
The trend toward issuing "report cards" is one step in that direction, he said, "but we feel the guarantee also offers the individual members something that is meaningful to them."