family blue card_web.jpgMIAMI — A coalition of churches is joining with Blue Cross and Blue Shield to provide discounted health services to members of the black community.

The Collective Banking Group of Miami-Dade & Vicinity is teaming with the healthcare insurer to provide Family Blue.  The medical discount plan would help a family with up to six members save on a variety of health services for a rate of only $19.95 per month.

Family Blue, a medical discount card that also includes around-the-clock access to nurses who will answer limited medical questions, provides members with discounts to medical services.

A look at sample savings on the Family Blue website indicates that those who are enrolled in the $19.95 per month plan could realize nominal savings of between $3 and $14 on prescriptions; and anywhere between $6 per person in savings on an asthma shot to as much as $773 on an appendectomy.

The local CBG is a branch of the national, Maryland-based CBG. Led by Chairman and President Rev. Joaquin Willis, pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Liberty City, it comprises 67 churches throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The local CBG’s website indicates that it does “forcefully advocate the black church as the most effective vehicle to bring about economic empowerment, wealth building, and a community of educated consumers.”

Although the CBG’s initial focus was on easing members’ access to banking services, the local group has expanded its focus from economic empowerment to overall quality of life issues, including access to affordable healthcare.

Penny Shaffer, Market President of South Florida for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, said because Family Blue was just introduced, the company is still working through the details of how the medical discount card will be leveraged to the CBG’s churches and membership.

The health care giant has been a part of the CBG’s strategic partnership for the past two years, Shaffer said, “and we have been encouraging the membership through education opportunities.’’

Those opportunities in-clude the CBG’s annual strategic planning retreat and CBG strategic partner forums. Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Shaffer said, has also held health fairs at CBG meetings and at some churches.

Black people have higher rates of HIV, cancer and strokes than their white counterparts, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

“For blacks in the United States, health disparities can mean earlier deaths, decreased quality of life, loss of economic opportunities, and perceptions of injustice,’’ the CDC reports. “For society, these disparities translate into less than optimal productivity, higher health-care costs, and social inequity.’’

Shaffer said the new Blue Cross and Blue Shield program “has been designed to increase access to affordable health care for Florida’s residents and very particularly to the uninsured.”

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