Tennessee insurers gear up to market new health plans

Tennessee insurers gear up to market new health plans

October 1st, 2013 by Kate Belz and Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Whether or not ObamaCare ends up being the job killer that its critics claim, the launch of most of the health care reform plan today is creating lots of work today for Tennessee's biggest health insurers.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the state's biggest health insurer, has doubled its sales staff and call center agents to handle the introduction of 54 new individual plans BlueCross is introducing through the new federally backed health exchanges. In two weeks, BlueCross is launching a statewide advertising blitz billed as "Be in the Know Now" to attract as many as the insurer can of the estimated 490,000 Tennesseans who could be eligible for the new health care exchanges offered through the health care reform law.

"We've not done this aggressive of an enrollment for individuals in the past so this is a first for us," said Carla Raynor, a veteran hotel and hospitality manager and marketer hired by BlueCross to help double its individual policy business. "It's certainly a significant undertaking to enroll this number of people during the open enrollment time period (through next March)."

Cigna Healthcare, the second biggest health insurer in Chattanooga and the only other exchange provider targeting Southeast Tennessee with the new individual policies, is also adding staff and resources to promote its health care offerings through the new exchanges.

"While Cigna has not been a big player in the individual space, we have really dedicated ourselves over the last four to five years to build this segment," said Joe Mondy, who leads Cigna's communications for individual and family plans. "The head of our individual and family plans department is sponsoring neck rubs for people. We've been buying t-shirts for people at the office, saying 'I Survived The Exchanges,' that sort of thing."

Cigna is using its around-the-clock call centers to accept calls from consumers interested in signing up for one of its new products. Although many individual plans will be more expensive for young people who may have previously had more limited coverage in the past, low- and middle-income persons will be able to receive federal subsidies to help pay for their new policies.

The new health care reform law also mandates that workers who don't have insurance through their employer or Medicaid must buy a policy, starting next year.

"We have ramped up with staff anyway because of regular fall open enrollment (for group plans and Medicare enrollments)," Mondy said "We're pretty well-positioned as far as folks being ready, and willing and able."

Monday and others said they expect most people will be asking questions and gathering information today when all of the exchange options are posted on the federal Health and Human Services web site for the new health care exchanges - www.heatlhcare.gov. Policy signups are likely to come later.

"This is lot like Christmas," BlueCross's Raynor said. "We think we're ready."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepres.com or Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com.