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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Writing for internal newsletter
Blue Cross Wins National Award for Fraud Awareness Campaign
By Jerry Martin
12/12/22Through a collaboration of the Financial Investigations Department and Strategic Communications team, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana has planned, developed and executed a robust communications strategy over the past three years to educate members—and all Louisianians—about the risks of health care fraud, waste and abuse and how they can avoid becoming victims. The quality and impact of that initiative were recognized nationally in November, when Blue Cross was named the winner of the 2022 Excellence in Public Awareness Award at a National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association conference in Orlando, Florida.
The award highlights Blue Cross' role as an advocate for Louisiana health care consumers and as a thought leader in the health insurance industry—and not just because there's only one winner each year and the honor more commonly goes to a media or communications organization. It's also because of the sheer scale of the problems posed by health care fraud, which run from fraudulent claims and fraudulent providers to medical identity theft and drug diversion and abuse—each with ripple effects so extensive they are difficult to quantify or overstate. According to the NHCAA, the financial losses of fraudulent claims easily run into the tens of billions of dollars each year, with some government and law enforcement agencies placing the annual loss as high as 10% of national health costs, which could mean more than $300 billion.
And that hefty financial price tag, the NHCAA notes, merely etches the surface of a staggering financial, social and health impact that ultimately includes: higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for consumers; reduced benefits and coverage for consumers; increased benefits costs for employers; vast costs associated with families who then fall into the category of the uninsured; and an “impact on the public perception of the integrity and value of the health care system" itself. And that's still not accounting for the costs of identity theft, or the health issues, endangerment, psychological damage, and loss of life that come with fraudulent and unnecessary care AND the related problems of pharmacy fraud, illegal drug diversion and drug abuse.
Over the past three years, dozens of Blue Cross staffers led by Financial Investigations Director Latisha Mire, Manager of Special Investigations Kandyce Cowart, Digital Strategy Manager Kara Still, and Strategic Communications Manager Kristen Sunde, have brought a strategic, concerted and multi-pronged communications and education campaign to bear on this multi-faceted problem.
“These issues present a daunting array of risks for Louisianians, and sadly it's the senior population that is the most at risk," said Still, who was one of nearly a dozen Blue employees who attended the NHCAA annual training conference in Orlando to receive the award. “Recognizing the need to help Louisianians protect themselves and their families from becoming victims, we've deployed a robust message strategy, developed through collaboration between the FID and Strategic Communications, to raise awareness, share resources and encourage prevention."
The message strategy relied on a variety of tactics, including press releases, videos, media appearances, member and group leader newsletters, community events, social media content, web tools and graphic designs, all targeted to share information with core audiences—members, media, the general public, providers, group leaders and government officials. Blue Cross has also developed multiple community partnerships to distribute messaging and information, working with the Louisiana Attorney General's Office, the New Orleans Field Division of the FBI, state and local law enforcement agencies across Louisiana, the Seniors and Law Men Together (SALT) program in Louisiana, the local Senior Medicare Patrol, and Blue Cross' statewide networks of agents, hospitals and providers.“One vector is the hundreds of Blue Cross agents and sales team members statewide, who are often the first line of defense against fraud," notes Cowart. “And then we're also seeing how better awareness of fraud filters over into our provider network—even down to an individual provider's office staff or clinical staff."
In 2022 alone the ambitious public awareness campaign included press releases (ex: “Blue Cross Shares Tips to Avoid Scams During Medicare Fraud Prevention Week"); a YouTube playlist (“Fraud Prevention Tips") of Blue Cross-produced original videos sharing tips for fraud, waste and abuse prevention; regular “Medicare Made Easy" Facebook Live virtual educational events (ex: “How to Stay Safe from Fraud and Avoid Scams"); ongoing media appearances on topics like fraud prevention and drug safety (ex: an appearance by Cowart on WWL-TV “Great Day Louisiana" to discuss drug diversion and drug safety); events (Drug Take Back Day in Baton Rouge this October collected more than 1,000 pounds and millions of individual opioid units); and ongoing partnerships and programs (in partnership with the Louisiana Attorney General's Office, the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators and Louisiana law enforcement agencies, Blue Cross has been placing secure drug drop boxes in each region of the state since 2016, an initiative that includes an online map of locations).
This is not the kind of public awareness initiative a health insurance organization takes on lightly. Tackling a challenge like health care fraud and expecting real results required expertise, creative thinking and leadership across multiple departments. Mire credits Cowart, Still and Sunde for working the levers, and Cindy Wakefield, vice president, Strategic Communications, and Brian Keller, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, for providing the required vision and support.
“Ultimately, whatever campaign or idea we come to her with that we think is important and however fast it needs to get done, Cindy will get behind it 1,000%. Her attitude is always, 'Let's get it done.' Brian is exactly the same way; he has always been a critical supporter of FID," Mire says. “I think the real takeaway here is this award showcases the collaboration between these two Blue Cross departments, and how that translates into real successes for our corporate mission of improving the health and lives of all Louisianians." — 30 —
Baton Rouge Area Foundation
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