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Anthem Blue Cross using Google Maps to divert customers from emergency rooms Posted: July 13th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

The typical, in-network emergency room (ER) charges Anthem Blue Cross $641 to treat a case of strep throat. With fees at urgent care centers running $70 and retail health clinics charging $27, the health insurance company is hoping its new emergency room education campaign will convince policyholders to seek out less costly treatment options.

According to Anthem Blue Cross, its ER campaign will include several components, including:

  1. An online educational site providing information about when it is appropriate to go to the ER and when to seek an alternative
  2. A Google Map pinpointing in-network urgent care centers and retail health clinics
  3. Automated calls and emails to individuals who recently had an avoidable ER visit
  4. Educational mailings to Anthem Blue Cross policyholders

Savings for Anthem Blue Cross and consumers

Although the campaign is designed to save Anthem Blue Cross money, the company says the initiative will benefit consumers as well. Co-payments for ER visits are often $150 compared to $10 to $40 for alternate treatment sources. The RAND Corp. reports 17 percent of all ER visits nationwide could be treated in retail clinics or urgent care centers, for an estimated savings of $4.4 billion.

By skipping the ER, Anthem Blue Cross says its policyholders can save time in addition to money. For example, the average wait in a California ER was more than 4.5 hours in 2010, according to the Emergency Department Pulse Report.