[Editor's Note: This story has been updated with information from Blue Cross on which customers qualified for the credit.]

You hesitate to even open the envelope and dread sets in the moment you read the greeting: “Dear Valued Member.” It must be a premium increase.

But in my Nov. 14 letter, three paragraphs in, Blue Cross starting spreading a little Christmas cheer. “In 2011, your efforts to take charge of your healthcare have paid off. We’ll admit it — we also did our part by streamlining administrative costs, negotiating the best possible contracts with doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers, and fighting fraud and abuse. 

“The result is that we are able to give you a one-time $100 credit toward your premium.” 

C’est what? An insurance company giving me money back. Now that’s gotta be a first.

The letter says my next bill will reflect the credit. However, not all Blue Cross customers qualified for the $100 gift (my policy is a health savings account, a high deductible health plan that includes a tax-advantaged medical savings account). Blue Cross spokeswoman Robin Mayhall says no group plan customers got the rebate — only those with individual plans, with the exception of individuals with HMO policies, policies for cancer and serious diseases and those who are on the company's VIP plan (which pays customers cash each day for qualified hospital stays). "Only certain plans with better-than-expected claims experiences" qualified for the credit, Mayhall says. 

Blue Cross, a private mutual company owned by its customers, goes on to say it appreciates that customers are buying generic drugs, getting flu shots and other preventive screenings and using network docs. “All of those things, especially your wellness efforts, help in the ongoing fight to keep healthcare costs under control. Keep up the good waok. We’ll be doing our part to stretch your hard-earned premiums in every way we can.” 

This is a good start, Blue Cross. I just hope the next “Dear Valued Member” letter I get isn’t about a premium increase. 

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