BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, one of Durham’s biggest employers, is pressuring the City Council not to drop BlueCross as the insurance carrier for city employees.
Durham’s human resources department has recommended that the city drop BlueCross and change to Aetna for health insurance and Delta Dental for dental benefits.
The move to Aetna should save the city $6.7 million over the next three years, according to a May 13 memo from Human Resources Director Regina Youngblood. Aetna has proposed an Accountable Care Organization plan run by Duke University Health System. Duke University is Durham’s largest employer.
Accountable care organizations represent an attempt to move away from fee for service health care. Groups of doctors, hospitals, and other providers coordinate health care. Reimbursements are tied to the quality and total cost of care for a group of patients.
BlueCross is not going quietly. On Thursday, about 60 BlueCross employees wearing “Made in Durham” t-shirts attended a City Council subcommittee meeting. Later that day, Cheryl Parquet, a community relations manager, emailed BlueCross employees asking them to phone or email city council members and encourage them to keep BlueCross. She also urged them to join BlueCross President Brad Wilson at Monday night’s council meeting (“Attire: Made in Durham shirts.”)
“There are seven City Council members and we need four votes,” Parquet wrote. “Let’s show the rest of the City Council members our pride of BCBSNC and we care about retaining the city as a customer.”
BlueCross employs 3,500 people in its Durham office, 1,300 of whom are Durham residents, according to spokesman Lew Borman. The insurance company is moving its headquarters from Chapel Hill to Durham in early 2016.
“We believe our bid was very competitive,” Borman said. “It’s a very important contract for us.”