5.07.2013

Getting Healthy, the Anthem Blue Cross Way

Anthem Blue Cross recently sent a form letter to an unknown number of its 6.8 million members.

The letter was signed by Dr. Michael J. Belman, the health insurance company’s medical director for quality management.

Dr. Belman’s letter begins:

“We’re much more than just your health care plan. We’re also want to help you get and stay as healthy.” (Sic)

After his garbled second sentence, Dr. Belman starts a new paragraph, announcing — in boldface — that he has enclosed some “money-saving coupons” to help Anthem Blue Cross members “build and lead a healthy lifestyle.”

In the third paragraph, although not in boldface, Dr. Belman encourages the letter’s recipients to “take a look at the coupons” and “enjoy using them.”

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At the bottom of the letter, however, below his signature, in smaller type – without a P.S. to attract a reader’s attention — Dr. Belman warns that Anthem Blue Cross “makes no guarantees regarding, and is not responsible in anyway (sic), for the goods received. The provision of these coupons,” he adds, “does not imply affiliation, sponsorship, endorsement or recommendation or any of the brands.” (Emphasis added.)

 A reader might well ask why the coupons that readers are encouraged to enjoy using  – tools to help “build and lead a healthy lifestyle,” according to the boldface of Paragraph Two – were enclosed if the products the coupons make more affordable are neither endorsed nor recommended by Anthem Blue Cross.

Did the makers of these products pay Anthem Blue Cross in order to have their coupons included in Dr. Belman’s letter to Anthem’s members?

If so, a nice bit of marketing to be inserted in a mass mailing touting healthy diet, lowering blood pressure and eating foods with less salt and saturated fats – even if in small print at the bottom of the letter Anthem Blue Cross says eating these products won’t necessarily make someone healthier.

Coupon1-3One coupon offers a $20 mail-in rebate on an “Oral-B Professional Precision 5000 with Deep Sweep brush head,“ which provides “up to 50 percent more brush movements versus Sonicare FlexCare,” presumably a rival toothbrush maker.

In his letter, Dr. Belman notes that living healthy also includes “taking care of your skin, teeth and eyes.” Hence, presumably, the inclusion of the rebate for the Professional Precision 5000.

As for the coupons for foodstuffs, the largest, at least in size, is for Sweet Freedom, no-sugar-added ice cream.

The back of the coupon has a larger-the-life reproduction of the Nutrition Facts box that a consumer would find on a container of Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom Ice Cream.
The larger-the-life reproduction of the Nutrition Facts box says a serving of ice cream, vanilla in this case, is 93 calories.

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Unlike the Nutrition Facts box that would appear on an actual container of Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom ice cream the box on the back of the coupon does not include the size of a serving or how many servings are in a container.

After several clicks on the Blue Bunny website, it is revealed that a serving is ½ cup and there are 14 servings in a container.

Also included but not endorsed by Anthem or Dr. Belman is $1 off on a package of Dreamfields pasta. Penne Rigate, elbows and rotini are among the options. The coupon says the use of Dreamfields with its “5 grams of digestible carbs per cooked cup,” will “help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and improve digestive health.”

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There’s also $1 off on any “scrumptious” Weight Watchers “frozen novelty.” Says Weight Watchers: “You’ve made the commitment to a healthier lifestyle. We’ve made the commitment to help you get there.”

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Finally, Anthem Blue – or should it be Bleu? — Cross members can save $1 on a jar of Best Foods Mayonnaise with olive oil which features a “creamy taste you’ll feel good about.”

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This good feeling presumably comes from the mayonnaise containing 40 percent less fat that regular mayonnaise or 60 calories per serving instead of 90 calories. Like the Sweet Freedom ice cream coupon, no serving size for the mayonnaise is mentioned.

As director of quality management, Dr. Belman no doubt would know that 1-tablespoon is the serving size for mayonnaise.

“Go and savor the journey ahead,” Dr. Belman concludes.

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