February 25, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Santa Monicans Talk to the “Chatbox”:

Have you seen those Blue Shield TV ads where talking heads complain about health care? Like the one with the woman who complains about backless hospital gowns? Or the man who found out a code on his bill meant that he had been given a circumcision, much to his surprise?

According to Blue Shield of California, these ads are based on true accounts by people who were disgruntled about their health care experiences. On Friday, February 16, Blue Shield was out on the Third Street Promenade collecting more stories about how people really feel about health care.

Volunteers were asked to enter the “Chatbox,” a large white booth with a hole cut for a person’s head to be stuck through. (The camera was inside and the resulting videos will feature just the person’s talking head on a white background, as in the commercials). This reporter stuck her head inside and faced a screen on which the projected head of an interviewer asked questions along the lines of: What kind of health care do you have? Any incidents you want to tell us about? What kind of improvements do you think we need in our health care systems?

Blue Shield estimates that about 200 people volunteered to talk to the “Chatbox” during Friday’s session. They were guaranteed anonymity and they were permitted to talk frankly about their experiences with all providers (no names of companies will be used in resulting media). At this time, Blue Shield is not releasing specific stories, but a spokesperson said that common complaints included the lack of choices in doctor networks and having to wait for referrals to specialists even in difficult situations. Other grievances included long hold times on phone calls, being unable to get help when a primary care physician is out of town, not being able to understand billing codes and high prices of services.

The “Chatbox” campaign is part of a larger “We (Shield) You” marketing and advertising campaign that highlights problems in healthcare and insurance, and Blue Shield’s methods to address them. According to Doug Biehn, Vice President of Marketing for Blue Shield, the purpose of “Chatbox” is “to give [people] an opportunity to share their stories about dealing with health insurance. We as a company want to stand for making health care easier.

“As we all know, health insurance is complex, hard to understand and hard to afford. We want to listen to people and understand what frustrates them, as inspiration to make it easier and more affordable.”

In one of the humorous Blue Shield ads now running, a woman tries to figure out how she can economize in her lifestyle in order to pay her medical bills. In real life, however, this is not a joke. Affordability is the biggest problem in health care, with many people, including families, going without any form of health insurance. In 2002, Blue Shield CEO Bruce Bodaken proposed a plan for universal coverage, and the company states that it is determined to continue its efforts to get health care reform for California, a goal that Governor Schwarzenegger has recently set for the state.

The “Chatbox” project will continue to collect stories at various locations around California this month. Some of the stories will be the basis for future TV ads. Videos selected from “Chatbox” set-ups will be on view soon at blueshieldcachatbox.com.

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