We're Giving Back to Our Members

And helping end a year of financial hardship with the Health & Wellness Retail Card.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our world and the things we focus on. That's why it's important to us that we do everything we can to help our members continue to make their health and wellness priority number one.

In the coming weeks, we’re mailing $200 million in health and wellness retail cards to more than 600,000 eligible member households across our state.

How to use your new health & wellness retail card

It's our greatest hope that these cards will help our members get the health and wellness supplies they need during a pretty tough time.

These special cards cannot be used to pay for insurance premiums, prescription drugs, tobacco, alcohol or firearms, but they can help pay for:

  • healthy food
  • over-the-counter medications
  • first aid supplies
  • baby care items
  • exercise equipment
  • vitamins, and more

And, you can use them at a variety of local retailers, including Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid, Dollar General and Family Dollar.

 

Important Note for Members: Health and wellness retail cards will arrive in the mail in late October 2020. They can be used starting November 1, 2020. If you’ve received your retail card in the mail and have questions, please call the number in the welcome kit that comes with your card. If you haven’t received your retail card after November 7, call us using number on the back of your member ID card, to confirm your eligibility and mailing address.

 

*Incomm / OTC Network is an independent company providing discount programs on behalf of Blue Cross NC.

 
Health and Wellness Card

Who will get a card?

Eligible customers include those with fully insured medical, vision and dental plans from Blue Cross NC.

The health and wellness retail cards won't apply to those with Medicare, Federal Employee Program (FEP), Student BlueSM, State Health Plan or self-insured group medical plans.

 

Important Note for Group Administrators: For additional information, call your Blue Cross NC agent or group representative.

Eligible subscribers, or the policy holder, will receive a health and wellness retail card with a balance between $100 and $500, depending on the plan they’re enrolled in.

Why Now?

  • Blue Cross NC recently received funds from the ACA Temporary Risk Corridor Program and we're giving some of those funds back to our members. The remaining funds will be used to help lower our insurance rates for many customers in 2021. In North Carolina, the price of ACA plans for individuals will be lowered an average of 1% for the third straight year.

Questions & Answers

1. Who is qualified to receive a health and wellness retail card?

Eligible fully insured subscribers with an active health plan as of September 30, 2020, will qualify. More than 600,000 subscribers across the state who are enrolled in individual under 65 and fully insured employer plans, including vision and dental plans, are eligible to receive a health and wellness retail card with a balance between $100 and $500 based on the plans they are enrolled in. 

Customer Type

Total Amount

if Customers Have

a Fully Insured

Blue Cross NC

Medical Plan

Total Amount

if Customers Have

a Fully Insured

Blue Cross NC

Vision and/or

Dental Plan*

Total Amount

if Customers Have

a Fully Insured

Blue Cross NC

Medical Plan plus a

Vision and/or

Dental Plan

 Individual, Under Age 65

$400

$100

$500

 Individual, Over Age 65

Not applicable to Medicare plans

$100

$100

 Group, fully insured

 (1-50 employees)

$250

$100

$350

 Group, fully insured

 (51+ employees)

$200

$100

$300

 Student BlueSM

Not applicable to Student Blue plans

$100

$100

 Group, self-insured

 (any size)

Not applicable to self-insured plans, including balance funded medical plans

$100

$100

* Vision plans refer to Blue 20/20SM plans. Dental plans refer to Dental Blue® and Dental Blue Select plans. Retail cards do not apply to Federal Employee Program vision or dental products.

2. Why aren’t Student Blue customers receiving these health and wellness retail cards?

Risk corridor funds were created to adjust for losses from ACA individual plans. We chose to distribute these funds back to ACA individual under 65 members, and commercial and fully-insured medical and ancillary plan members. While our Student Blue members were excluded from this initiative, they are eligible for and have received Medical Loss Ratio rebates in recent years.

3. Does the member have to live in North Carolina to be eligible?

No. If a subscriber from an eligible fully insured plan has a mailing address outside of North Carolina, he or she will receive a retail card. The cards can be used at participating retailers nationwide.

4. What is the difference between a subscriber and a member?

A subscriber is the health insurance plan policy holder. A member is any person, including the subscriber, who has coverage under a Blue Cross NC policy. For example, a family covered under a single policy will have one subscriber but may have any number of affiliated members (partner, spouse, children, etc.) also covered by the policy.

5. Why did Blue Cross NC choose to distribute these funds through health and wellness retail cards rather than premium rebates?

This year, our members have experienced unexpected hardship and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, high levels of unemployment and an economic slowdown. Choosing to distribute these funds through health and wellness cards is the fastest, most flexible way to deliver financial support to our members when they need it most. 

While rebates and premium holidays may provide specific financial relief, health and wellness cards allow our subscribers to choose the best use of these funds for themselves and their families.

This method gets funds to the most people possible. Many members would either get no benefit or very little benefit from a premium waiver because the vast majority of our ACA members on an individual plan already get premium subsidies, or full subsidies, and pay very small or $0 monthly premium amounts. And many of our members in employer plans already have their premiums paid partially or in full by their employer.

6. Why isn’t Blue Cross NC issuing a general-use debit card that could be used to pay for rent, utilities, health care premiums, prescription drugs or gas?

These health and wellness cards help us achieve several important goals:

  • getting funds to the most people possible, as quickly as possible, and
  • focusing on our members’ health and well-being
     

While the cards can't be used for every purchase, they can be used for many essentials, including food, over-the-counter medications, first aid supplies, baby care items, exercise equipment, vitamins and more at a variety of retailers. And we're distributing these cards within a few weeks of receiving the risk corridor funds from the federal government, with as little delay as possible.

7. How much money will the health and wellness retail cards contain? Will all the cards be worth the same amount?

Subscribers enrolled in individual, small group and fully insured large employer plans, including vision and dental plans, are eligible to receive a health and wellness retail card with a balance between $100 and $500 based on the type of plans they have.

8. Will members on a grandfathered or transitional plan get a health and wellness retail card?

Yes. Eligible individual under-65 customers who get the cards include subscribers with On-Marketplace and Off-Marketplace plans, plus transitional plans. Eligible fully insured group subscribers who get the cards include subscribers on grandfathered and transitional plans.

9. How did Blue Cross NC decide on $200 million as the total amount of the health and wellness retail card program?

Blue Cross NC is able to fund these health and wellness retail cards for the direct benefit of its members from monies received from the federal government following litigation related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) temporary risk corridor program. We want to support our members during this time so they can continue to prioritize the health and well-being for themselves and their families. This is our first priority, and as such, we will immediately redistribute as much of the risk corridor funds as possible to our members.

After paying taxes and an estimated $8 million in MLR rebates for prior years, Blue Cross NC will issue $200 million in health and wellness retail cards to more than 600,000 eligible subscribers across North Carolina. 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 1% 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.

10. How were the individual card amounts determined?

Blue Cross NC is committed to helping as many of our customers as possible. When determining the specific amount for each health and wellness retail card, we aimed to provide amounts that are meaningful and helpful to members.

11. What subscribers are not eligible to receive a health and wellness retail card?

Many of our subscribers will receive a health and wellness retail card. Those who are not eligible include subscribers through self-funded Administrative Services Only (ASO) plans and balance funded plans, including the State Health Plan, Federal Employee Plans (FEP), Medicare and Student Blue plans.

Vision plans eligible for retail cards refer to fully insured Blue 20/20SM plans. Dental plans refer to fully insured Dental Blue® and Dental Blue® Select plans. Retail cards don't apply to FEP or State Health Plan vision or dental products. Subscribers in these plans were not included because Blue Cross NC received these risk corridor funds from the federal government due to the substantial losses the company sustained on its fully insured commercial business during the first three years of the ACA. Since the risk corridor program didn’t apply to self-funded group or Medicare business, it would not be appropriate to distribute these funds to customers on self-funded group or Medicare plans.

12. Will subscribers owe taxes on the health and wellness retail cards?

Because the dollar amount is less than $600, there will be no 1099 issued. However, we encourage subscribers to consult their tax professional to determine taxability for their personal situation.

13. If the health and wellness retail cards don't use all of the risk corridor program funds, what are you doing with the rest of the funds?

All of the funds we receive as a result of the risk corridor ruling will go to benefit our members. Of the total $356 million, approximately $75 million is owed in combined taxes and MLR rebates for prior years. Blue Cross NC will issue $200 million to directly benefit members through the health and wellness retail cards. Any remaining funds will be used to offset the cost of member premiums in 2021.

14. How can members get their health and wellness retail card?

Members will get their health and wellness retail card in in the mail between October19 and November 7 of this year with instructions on how to activate the card and where it can be used.

15. Where can the health and wellness retail cards be used?

Blue Cross NC is providing health and wellness cards to benefit members where they need it most. Health and wellness cards may be used for qualifying health-related expenses such as food, over-the-counter medications, first aid supplies, baby care items, exercise equipment, vitamins and more at a variety of retailers including Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Dollar General and Family Dollar. The cards cannot be used to pay for insurance premiums, prescription drugs, tobacco, alcohol or firearms.

16. Do the health and wellness retail cards have an expiration date?

No. The health and wellness cards do not expire.

17. How will agents and employer groups be notified of this program?

Blue Cross NC will notify external agents and applicable employer groups of this program by email, the employer portal and the agent portal by early October. We'll share samples of member materials at that time.

18. Is it true that some Medicare customers may receive these health and wellness cards?

Yes. If a Blue Cross NC customer has one of our vision (Blue 20/20) or dental (Dental Blue and Dental Blue Select) plans on September 30, 2020, they are eligible for a health and wellness card. These ancillary products are sold to individuals of any age.

In addition, in January 2021, Blue Cross NC plans to issue health and wellness cards to Medicare Advantage customers, as part of a separate wellness initiative, unrelated to the risk corridor program funds.

19. If customers have a question about their health and wellness retail card, who should they call?

Health and wellness retail cards will not arrive in the mail until late October 2020. If you’ve received your retail card in the mail and have questions, please call the number in the welcome kit that comes with your card. If you haven’t received your retail card after November 7, call us using the number on the back of your member ID card, to confirm your eligibility and mailing address.

20. When can I begin using the health and wellness card?

Cards can be used starting November 1, 2020.