Most ACA health policies in Tennessee made through BlueCross BlueShield

Most ACA health policies in Tennessee made through BlueCross BlueShield

May 7th, 2014 by Kate Harrison Belz in Local Regional News

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee dominates Cameron Hill in downtown Chattanooga.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

BY THE NUMBERS

• 30 percent of BlueCross' Marketplace policies were sold in the Nashville area, 16 percent in Knoxville, 14 percent in Memphis and 11 percent in Chattanooga;

• 80 percent of Marketplace subscribers received a tax credit to put towards their premium;

• 73 percent of policies purchased were Silver plans, among Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum plans.

Most Tennesseans who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act opted for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee plans, a new report from the company shows.

BlueCross sold 133,291 policies through HealthCare.gov, claiming 88 percent of the state's total enrollment, the insurer announced Wednesday.

"We made a decision three years ago to really invest in this new market," said Henry Smith, BlueCross senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

"We thought it was the right thing to do with our mission - and also to be strategic amidst all of the change - to go out and grab as much in this market as possible in the first year," Smith said.

In the nation, the Chattanooga-based company ranked 12th in overall enrollment among all health plans offering products on the federal marketplace.

A Kaiser Family Foundation report last fall found that BlueCross has some of the lowest priced plans in the country.

The company also invested heavily in advertising, and launched a series of educational forums at most large colleges and other community centers across the state.

BlueCross executives say there are no clear figures that show how many of those who bought the new plans were previously uninsured. But the company estimates that at least 15 percent of their new customers had no previous coverage.

About 85 percent of those who purchased a plan have paid the first month's premium, and there is still time for more to do so.

Cigna - the other insurer that offered marketplace plans in the Chattanooga area - does not release state-by-state enrollment information, company spokeswoman Amy Turkington said.

Turkington did say that by the end of the year, Cigna expects to have 290,000 individual market health plan customers in the 10 states it offers such plans - 40 percent of whom will be on 2014 ACA-compliant plans.

Nationally, federal officials are reporting more than 8 million policies were sold on federal and state-run insurance exchanges, with 151,400 signing up in Tennessee.

U.S. Sen. Lamar, R-Tenn., contended that the numbers were nothing to brag about - questioning how many of the total were those who had to switch off of plans that were discontinued under the law.

"I don't believe you can force Americans to do something by law, and then tout the numbers who comply with it as a sign of good policy," the senator said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, said the state's numbers were "encouraging," but said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam "must build on this success" and expand Medicaid.

"It's time to cover 180,000 uninsured Tennesseans who are hurting right now," Cooper said in a statement.

Already BlueCross and other insurers are strategizing for the next open enrollment period, which starts in November.

One of BlueCross' key goals, said Smith, is to draw more young people - who typically require less medical care and help balance out claims required by older and sicker populations.

About 26 percent of those who signed up on the new BlueCross plans were 18 to 34-year-olds, while 29 percent are older than 55.

The company also will boost efforts to reach more pockets of the uninsured, mainly in inner-city communities.

One key partnership, Smith said, has been with Erlanger Health System, which hired its own counselors to spearhead enrollment efforts, chiefly at its inner-city community health centers.

Erlanger navigators reached 6,458 people and enrolled 2,028 people, said Joe Winnick, Erlanger senior vice president of strategic planning.

"Providing as much uncompensated as care we do, it was natural for us be as proactive as possible," Winick said.

BlueCross also selected Erlanger to be the region's sole hospital provider for its new Network E, which is available only in the state's major metropolitan areas.

In the areas where Network E was available, at least 55 percent of consumers picked that option.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.