Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida now goes by the less formal Florida Blue and sports a redesigned logo and tagline meant to make the company "friendlier, easier and less corporate." Humana, another of Florida's biggest health insurers, and Connecticut-based insurers Cigna and Aetna have likewise trotted out softer, less stuffy logos and marketing campaigns.
The wave of rebrandings reflects a fundamental change in the insurers' approach to their business, driven by trends that will continue to play out regardless of what happens to the national health care law.
For more than a decade, employer-sponsored health insurance has been in decline. The percentage of non-elderly Floridians who get their health insurance from their employers fell from 63.1% in 2000 to 54.4% in 2009. Meanwhile, the percentage of uninsured rose from 20% to 25%. Changes in the new healthcare law could propel upward of 3 million new Floridians into the market for individual health insurance policies by 2014.
In part, those shifts have focused health insurers on creating new lines of business and selling insurance more like a retail product. For nearly six years, Florida Blue has operated a chain of outlets that sells insurance policies in a store setting. Aetna, meanwhile, has begun selling its wellness products at several Best Buy stores in Chicago and is teaming up with the wholesale club Costco to sell individual policies online.
More notably, the insurers have embarked on a relentless, comprehensive effort to control costs. Some efforts are directed at doctors - Florida Blue recently rolled out a new "patient centered medical home" program, which pays incentives to doctors who effectively provide comprehensive and coordinated care to members with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
So far, 1,500 physicians statewide
are participating in the voluntary program. Florida Blue's CEO, Patrick Geraghty, says it's "too early to make a final judgment" on the program, but it still shows promise.
The most interesting efforts at cost control, however, target consumers, as the companies blur the line between insurance provider and health care provider. On one front, the insurers are pushing wellness - more information aimed at getting their policyholders to eat right, exercise and quit smoking. Obesity, which has risen 34% since 1960, is a leading cost driver in health care spending, adding about $190 billion to the nation's health care tab annually.
Florida Blue's efforts involve everything from encouraging companies to plant gardens to giving discounts on premiums to consumers who participate in health screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, weight and other health indicators and meet individual goals.
Geraghty says he's also been talking to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam about ways to incorporate Florida's farm community into its health and wellness strategy. "It's a multifaceted task, but we understand that all kinds of policy touch health policy," he says.
It can also be politically touchy. The company took some flack earlier this year after it teamed up with Disney to develop a new "Habit Heroes" exhibit at Epcot that some groups said stigmatized and offended overweight children. Geraghty says the exhibit, which previously featured fit cartoon superheroes named Will Power and Callie Statics and fat supervillians named Snacker and Lead Bottom, is being reworked and will reopen later this year.
The second front in the cost-control efforts aimed at consumers involves the insurance companies actually providing health care. In March, Florida Blue launched its first full-service primary care center at its Pensacola Florida Blue Center. The clinic, which is open Monday through Saturday, has four exam rooms, an on-site lab and a pharmacy and treats Florida Blue and Blue Cross and Blue Shield members 12 and older.
The clinic is operated by Healthstat, a Charlotte, N.C.-based company that operates 300 on-site employee clinics including Florida Blue's on-campus clinic at its headquarters in Jacksonville. Florida Blue hopes that the clinic will help cut medical costs for its members, in the same way it did for its employees.
Implicit in the new approach to health insurance is a closer, friendlier connection between the companies and their customers than the traditional "write-the-check, pay-the-doctor" relationship. Hence all the new logos and marketing.
Insurers, says Geraghty, must "connect with people on a personal, one-on-one basis. It's going to be critical not to be a distant insurance company but somebody in your community you can talk to and have an experience that makes you come away and say, 'That's helped me.' "