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Plans steer patients to lower-cost hospitals



Hundreds of small businesses have signed up in the past month for a new Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plan that charges employees hefty fees for seeking care at more expensive hospitals, in an effort to steer them to lower cost care. The popularity of the plan --- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts says it is the fastest launch ever of a new product --- is the latest sign that the once radical idea has been embraced as a way to control soaring healthcare costs, even as pricier hospitals warn of a possible backlash and cuts in services. Other Massachusetts insurers also report brisk business in plans that offer lower premiums in exchange for limits on use of high-cost care. The plans either charge consumers extra for receiving care from popular but expensive hospitals or doctors, or bar them altogether from seeking treatment at those institutions and practices.
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