HELENA – Money talks — and so do rising health care costs. In an effort to address the toll that financial stress takes on health care costs, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) has awarded Rural Dynamics with a $50,000 Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® grant.
Rural Dynamics, a nonprofit organization based in Great Falls, is developing a program to help Montanans be more financially astute, therefore reducing the likelihood of financial stress and the health risks and costs associated with it.
“Financial stress takes a real toll on mental health and physical wellbeing and contributes to rising health care costs,” said John Doran, BCBSMT Divisional Vice President of External Affairs. “The Rural Dynamics proposal addresses the root cause of financial distress. Not only will this proposal relieve the mental anguish of financial problems, it has great potential to also reduce future health care costs as a result.
“Addressing mental health is not a one-size-fits-all approach and this is a new and unique way of treating one of its underlying symptoms.”
Sen. Tom Jacobson of Great Falls is the executive director of Rural Dynamics and visited BCBSMT’s Helena headquarters Tuesday, where Doran and approximately 60 BCBSMT employees gathered to surprise him with the grant.
“When we opened the door and saw the big check, that was quite the surprise. It was a very good surprise,” Jacobson said. “We’ve been working with Blue Cross and Blue Shield for almost a year now to try and look at ways that we can address the financial wellness of individuals so that it has an improved physical wellness on the back end.”
In collaboration with BCBSMT, GreenPath Financial Wellness, Benefis Health Systems, the Center for Financial Services Innovation, the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Center for Financial Security, Rural Dynamics intends to test several tools to determine how to best serve those in need, including:
- Providing online prevention tools to educate and assist families in budgeting and planning for financial security
- Completing an assessment of income and expenses to form the baseline for developing a budget and plan to pay for expenses not covered by insurance
- Debt repayment plans with health care providers that may consist of negotiated payment or other concessions
- Allowing for affordability within the family’s budget
- Other interventions that are identified as desirable and feasible to users and stakeholders through the design process
“A year ago, Senator Jacobson asked me, ‘What is Blue Cross doing to address the social determinants of health?’ I had a simple, one-word answer: ‘Everything,’” Doran said. “But this proposal truly is new and unique for us. To date, we have not focused on the upstream impact of finances on health care costs. This proposal shows real promise and I am excited to see where it can go from here.”
The pilot project will initially focus on north central Montana, within the service area of Benefis Health System. When appropriate, Rural Dynamics intends to expand testing efforts to include residents throughout Montana.
“We know that social determinants of health say that people in poverty and financial stress also leads to poorer health outcomes,” Jacobson said. “We want to address that in a way to help people not only be physically well, but financially and mentally well as well.”
HKHF is a signature program of BCBSMT and part of an ongoing commitment to invest in and partner with like-minded nonprofit organizations that offer sustainable, measurable programs to reach children and their families in the five following areas: nutrition, physical activity, disease prevention and management, substance abuse prevention, and suicide prevention. The $50,000 HKHF grant is one of four BCBSMT awards each year.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) is a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCBSMT is the largest and longest-standing statewide, customer-owned health insurer and full-service health benefits administrator in Montana. BCBSMT believes that Montana consumers and employers deserve the best of both worlds — access to quality, cost-effective health care and superior customer service from a company that focuses solely on members. BCBSMT has provided high-quality health insurance plans and administrative services to Montanans for nearly 80 years. BCBSMT is committed to ensuring its members — no matter where they are on the health spectrum — achieve maximum health. BCBSMT’s mission is to stand with its members in sickness and in health. BCBSMT’s website is www.bcbsmt.com.
About Rural Dynamics, Inc.
The mission of Rural Dynamics, Inc. (RDI) is to help individuals and families achieve financial security and pursue economic opportunities. We believe that financial security and economic opportunity are cornerstones to improve the quality of life for people we serve. RDI envisions a region where people have the capacity and opportunity to make positive choices regarding their economic futures. To achieve its mission, RDI combines direct service strategies such as financial coaching, lending, educating, and tax preparation as well as indirect strategies such as coalition building, capacity building for poverty reduction, and advocacy work. RDI’s website is www.ruraldynamics.org.