Member advocates help a family navigate life with leukemia

Published February 14, 2020

A member advocate from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota helps a family navigate life with leukemia, from coordinating treatment to managing questions about claims. It’s what advocates do for patients with complex or life-threatening conditions every day. But one advocate went a step further: she visited her patient in the hospital, giving his parents time to grab lunch and take a quick break from the bedside.

A village cheering for Chase Jones to beat leukemia

More than a thousand people follow Chase Jones’ social media page. That’s a lot for a 9-year-old. But it’s where Chase’s mother Marcie Jones chronicles her son’s journey with a rare form of leukemia, and it’s one way friends and supporters can cheer him on.

Just two weeks after Chase’s diagnosis in late 2016, the Jones family got an unexpected call from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota. Kara Carpenter was on the other end of the line, introducing herself as a member advocate. “Kara said, ‘We have this program,’ and I had no clue how that program might change our lives,” says Marcie. She soon learned that Carpenter could help with everything from answering insurance questions to charting a course through the sometimes complex world of provider networks. She could help ensure Chase got the care he needed, and make the family’s benefits work for them.

Advocacy in action:

  • BCSB North Dakota has 8 member advocates
  • 107 active member cases, with capacity for 180+
  • Advocates reach out to members with complex needs: pediatric congenital conditions; pediatric cancer; trauma (any age); transplants (any age); premature birth and more
  • Members or providers can also reach out to advocates for assistance

A member advocate cleared the way for Marcie to focus on Chase

Marcie says when envelopes from doctors’ offices and her insurance company came, Carpenter helped sort through some of the complex details involving processing claims and navigating out-of-network referrals. 

But one day, Carpenter went a step further. She visited Chase in the hospital, met his grandparents and siblings and gave his parents a chance to grab lunch for a quick break from Chase’s bedside.

Marcie says Carpenter has lifted a huge weight off the family’s shoulders. “She makes everything more understandable and helps us quickly discern what's covered, so we can get on to more important things.”

“We give families peace of mind.”

Kara Carpenter, Team Lead of Member Advocacy at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota

Carpenter says she has the best job in her organization because it’s simply about doing everything she can to help people. Member advocates get in a member’s corner, helping them navigate the complex worlds of health insurance and healthcare. 

“We’re going through this together,” says Carpenter. “We’re following the case.” For a family like Chase’s, says Carpenter, “It’s not our child, but we still have our heartstrings pulled.”

Carpenter began working with Chase’s family in December 2016. Over the years, his needs changed. Chase’s condition improved so his family thought perhaps they wouldn’t need to rely as heavily on a member advocate. Marcie says, “Sometimes Kara and I didn’t talk for a few months, and then she would just call and say, ‘How are things going? How are you doing?’”

Member advocates stick by families as their needs change

Recently, it became clear Chase needs a bone marrow transplant. The process can be long and complex, and involve many different specialists.

That’s when a member advocate can be more important than ever, says Carpenter. “It can be put on our shoulders here at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, and families can focus on their loved one.” In the case of Chase, she says, her goal is to help his family do their best to get him back to being a healthy little boy.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Dakota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.