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Blue Shield of California Expands Palliative Care Program, Offers Home-Based Care Statewide

Innovative program also available to Medi-Cal beneficiaries enrolled with Care1st Health Plan, an affiliate of Blue Shield of California

SAN FRANCISCO (March 15, 2018) --- Blue Shield of California today announced it has expanded its home-based palliative care program statewide, becoming the only health plan in California to offer this service in all 58 counties.

The expansion follows the successful launch of a pilot program in the Sacramento area in early 2017. This model of care features home visits from integrated teams that include physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and other specialists to form a comprehensive care support system for patients facing serious illness.

Palliative care is patient- and family-centered care that prioritizes quality of life and seeks to ease the symptoms of serious illness. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment. Blue Shield members receiving home-based palliative care benefit from an array of services delivered at home, including:

  • Care management and coordination

  • Pain and symptom management

  • Assistance with treatment decisions and care planning

  • Meal delivery and transportation in certain cases

  • 24/7 access to care and support

Palliative care is covered as a standard medical service for all members with primary health coverage from Blue Shield of California. Starting this year, it is also available for Medi-Cal beneficiaries enrolled with Care1st Health Plan, an affiliate of Blue Shield. Delivering statewide access to these services helps advance Blue Shield’s mission of ensuring all Californians have access to quality care at an affordable price.

“By working closely with our provider groups and Blue Shield’s nationally-recognized Accountable Care Organizations (ACO), we have built a statewide network of providers who can deliver palliative care to seriously ill members whether they are at home or in a healthcare facility,” said Terry Gilliland, M.D., senior vice president and chief health officer at Blue Shield of California. “We’re proud to be transforming health care here in California, and we’re advocating for a nationwide approach to ensure all Americans with serious illness have access to high-quality palliative care services.”

In its first year, Blue Shield’s palliative care program achieved notable results, including:

  • More than 800 members – as well as their families and caregivers – received home-based palliative care services through Blue Shield in 2017

  • Blue Shield’s home-based palliative care programs received an average patient and family satisfaction score of 96 percent

  • 90 percent of Blue Shield of California members enrolled in palliative care who have passed away did so in accordance with their wishes to be in their homes at the end of life. A 2012 study found 70 percent of Californians would prefer to remain in their homes; however, only 32 percent of all Californians passed away at home

  • Blue Shield members referred to palliative care were more than twice as likely to utilize their hospice benefits when compared to the national average

  • Blue Shield trains its nurse case managers to help seriously ill patients and their families understand and explore their care options

  • Blue Shield of California helps its network of primary care providers better serve their seriously ill patients by offering tools and resources on palliative care

“We all want the same thing, which is to provide our patients quality, compassionate care in the setting they choose,” said Jeanine Ellinwood, M.D., medical director at Snowline Supportive Care, which was part of Blue Shield’s pilot program in 2017. “We’ve been caring for those with serious illness since 1979, and Blue Shield’s home-based palliative care program is really breaking new ground in terms of access to quality care and support for caregivers and family members.”

Please click here to view an infographic on the palliative care program.


Background on Blue Shield of California
Blue Shield of California, an independent member of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 4 million members, 6,800 employees and more than $17 billion in annual revenue. Founded in 1939 and headquartered in San Francisco, Blue Shield of California and its affiliates provide health, dental, vision, Medicaid and Medicare health care service plans in California. The company’s mission is to ensure all Californians have access to high-quality care at an affordable price. Blue Shield has contributed more than $500 million to the Blue Shield of California Foundation since 2002. Contact your local agent or broker about Blue Shield of California products and services, or visit