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Blue Cross NC rolls out value‑based model for behavioral health

Seth Thomas GulledgeStaff Writer, Triangle Business Journal

Blog | Healthcare | Jan 29, 2020

North Carolina’s largest insurer is adding to its existing drive for value-based health models by launching one specifically for behavioral health – an area providers have long said is too often overlooked in holistic care.

Durham-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has announced “Blue Premier Behavioral Health” plans, building on the ideas of its previously announced plans with most major health care systems in the state. Under the new plan “behavioral health providers in Blue Cross NC network have opportunities to earn higher payments for meeting quality measures,” the company said.

Blue Cross NC says it hopes the plan will lead to “better access to high-quality, better- coordinated care for mental health and substance use disorders,” calling the changes “among the first of their kind among health plans, which traditionally have treated behavioral health separately from physical health.” The company has been working toward better integration of behavioral health into traditional health spaces since 2019. Just over a year ago, the insurer launched its “Blue Premier” plan alongside the state’s largest health systems, including the Triangle’s UNC Health, Duke Health and WakeMed.

The company says Blue Premier Behavioral Health plans, will integrate into that plan – which held both Blue Cross NC and providers jointly accountable for the cost and quality of care.

“It’s time for our health care system to treat the patient as one person, not as someone with physical health needs and someone with behavioral health needs,” said Dr. Kate Knutson, the insurer’s head of behavioral health. “Blue Premier Behavioral Health will expand access, improve coordination with primary care and help achieve better health outcomes.”

The insurer is currently enrolling behavioral health providers into the plan – with a deadline of May 31.

Jeff Williams, the CEO of MindPath Care Centers – the new name for Carolina Partners in Mental Healthcare (CPMH) since its acquisition by River Cities Capital Funds – says he is “very excited about this program.”

“At MindPath we believe, as BCBSNC does, that value-based care delivery is the model of future,” he says. “We also believe strongly that mental health care, or as we prefer to say, ‘mindcare,’ is the not-so-secret ingredient to making value-based care models successful.”

Since being tapped to lead MindPath, Williams – the former CEO of Clinipace – has been arguing for both the untapped potential for behavioral health services, as well as the important role they place in addressing larger health problems.

“This is because in working closely with primary care, we can have a significant impact on the overall wellbeing and lower costs for chronic care,” he says. “We truly believe health care begins with mindcare and look forward to working with BCBS to bring value care to North Carolina.”

Blue Cross NC’s newest plan is launched in partnership with Quartet Health, a technology and services company. The insurer began offering the company’s services from its primary care and mental health providers last year for free – hoping to make it easier for doctors to recommend patients to mental health providers and close the gap in care.

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