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Blue Cross and Blue Shield, ECU partner in major effort to help uninsured

GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Nov. 14, 2000)   —   Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, the state's largest health insurer, and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University announced a joint effort Nov. 14 to help the uninsured in eastern North Carolina. BCBSNC is donating $1 million to help launch ECU CARE, an innovative program designed to help eastern North Carolina's poorest families receive needed health care.

BCBSNC also announced the creation of a new nonprofit charitable foundation. The new foundation is being launched with $15 million to support future programs that advance the foundation's mission of improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians. The foundation will focus on programs that increase access to health care services for the uninsured, provide health education, promote healthy lifestyles and support health initiatives that target children, older adults and minorities.

The foundation's $1 million gift to ECU CARE will be awarded over four years and will be managed by the Medical Foundation of ECU, the official charity for ECU's Division of Health Sciences.

"Our new foundation is delighted to support ECU CARE because it speaks directly to the foundation's mission, which is to help the people of North Carolina improve their health and well-being," said Bob Greczyn, BCBSNC president and chief executive officer, who also will serve as the foundation's chairman and president. "We envision ECU CARE and the partnership between Blue Cross and the Brody School of Medicine becoming a national model for caring for the uninsured. This partnership also will provide continuing assistance for families still struggling to recover from Hurricane Floyd."

Conceived by physicians at the Brody School of Medicine last year, ECU CARE provides health care solutions for those uninsured patients with the most limited resources and complex medical needs. ECU CARE offers qualifying patients financial assistance for services provided by physicians and other health care providers at the Brody School of Medicine and lower prices for designated prescriptions at Brody pharmacies. In addition, ECU CARE offers a more systematic approach to managing the care of these patients, tracking care outcomes and linking patients with other financial and health support services.

"We have designed a system of care that reaches a segment of the population that has largely been disengaged and neglected," said Dr. James A. Hallock, ECU vice chancellor for health sciences and medical school dean. "This generous gift from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation will allow us to take this program to many more deserving people."

Unlike many programs designed to care for indigent populations, ECU CARE is a "mainstreaming" program, meaning that patients enrolled in ECU CARE receive services at ECU clinics alongside paying patients.

ECU CARE estimates that 18 percent of the population of Eastern North Carolina falls below the federal poverty level, about $17,000 for a family of four. Thousands more are slightly above the poverty level, making them ineligible for government or other assistance. BCBSNC's gift will allow ECU CARE to as much as triple the number of people who benefit from the program by raising the income level for eligibility.

"In its pilot stage, ECU CARE already has helped over a thousand people, and they have seen outstanding success," Greczyn said. "With our gift, they can fully launch the program and reach out to many more people in need. This entire region will benefit from the work ECU CARE is doing."

The gift from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation will benefit ECU CARE in the following ways:

--As much as tripling the number of people served by ECU CARE by raising the income eligibility level to 125 percent of the poverty level and beginning outreach efforts in eastern North Carolina.
--Improving case managem


Contact: Doug Boyd | 252-744-2481