Archive for the ‘Blue Cross Blue Shield’ Category

Personal Stories of Americans Looking for Health Insurance

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Just say the words health insurance in public right now and you are likely to incite some type of debate.  It’s a hot button issue because of the Affordable Care Act, people losing health insurance coverage, and a new government site that is running anything but smoothly.  In “Barriers to health insurance: doubt, distrust, and glitches,” Maggie Fox of NBC News gives us three personal stories of Americans dealing with health insurance problems.  One woman has been trying, unsuccessfully, to find a plan on the government website for months.  One man has seen his existing insurance plan canceled and will have to pay considerably more for an acceptable plan.  But he won’t even give the website a chance because of all of the negative talk he has heard.  And another woman’s insurance company has doubled her premiums, but she won’t shop elsewhere because she trusts her current insurer.

The first woman highlighted has tried for more than two months to get an insurance plan on the government website, run by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  She has run into countless barriers and error messages in her quest to find affordable health insurance.  Most of the time, she can’t even make it to the sign-in page.  She has received help from the call center and said that the workers were kind and helpful, but they were running into glitches as well.  She will keep trying until the site is working correctly.  Next, a man in Indiana has been worrying about what to do with his health insurance.  His plan was canceled because it does not meet the new requirements.  Without action being taken on his part, his insurance company will issue a “comparable plan” that costs $1,000 more than his original plan each month.  Rather than deal with the headache he anticipates on the government website, he is relying on help from an insurance agent to maintain his insurance.

Finally, the story of a female lawyer from Iowa is highlighted.  She has been paying for individual health insurance from Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield for 16 years.  Her premiums have increased to $11,565 per year.  When asked why she wasn’t shopping for more affordable insurance premiums, she said that she trusts her insurer and appreciates the continuity.  The article authors found plans through the government website that would cover this lawyer ranging in price from $2,820 per year to $7,250 per year.  But she is strong in her conviction that she doesn’t want to comparison shop because she is comfortable where she is.  She does think that the Affordable Care Act will work in the long run to make health insurance more affordable for Americans.  It often takes awhile for new programs to run smoothly, so she is willing to wait it out and hope for lower health insurance premiums in the future.  If you are looking for health insurance, Compare Health Rates can help get you free quotes from multiple insurance companies.

Individual Health Insurance Plans in Illinois Extended for a Year

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

There is good news for people with individual and small group health insurance plans Illinois.  Many of the more than 185,000 people who received cancellation notices from their insurance company will have a year long reprieve from finding new coverage.  After an outcry from Americans, President Obama has urged state insurance regulators to make exceptions to the Affordable Care Act requirements.  Many existing health insurance plans do not meet all of the requirements, causing hundreds of thousands of people to get a cancellation notice.  If your insurance plan was effective prior to October 1 of this year, you will now have until October 1 of 2014 to select a new insurance plan.  This is great news to Americans who were scrambling to make health care plan decisions by January 1.  WGN’s Peter Frost discussed the details for Illinois residents in the story “Illinois to let companies sell existing health insurance plans.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the largest insurance company in the state, said that they will be contacting people who received cancellation notices to tell them their new options.  More than 475,000 people in Illinois had individual health insurance policies as of data collected in 2012.  Some of the people whose plans do not meet Affordable Care Act requirements will receive federal tax credits to help pay for new insurance plans.  But many others are upset because their new plan options cost double what their prior health insurance plans cost.  So far, 15 states have told their insurers that it’s okay to extend current insurance plans for another year.  Some states are not allowing this plan extension though, despite the President’s request for them to do so.  Some insurance companies worry that extending old plans will keep too many people out of the health insurance exchanges, which could raise those plan costs.  Those people who are buying plans in the health insurance exchanges have until December 23 of this year to purchase a plan that will go into effect January 1.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Will Offer Exchange Plans in All Florida Counties

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Florida’s health insurance exchange will open for business on October 1 of this year, with plans taking effect next January 1.  The health insurance exchanges will offer more coverage options to Americans who couldn’t afford health insurance before.  That is the idea at least.  Florida Blue’s Joe Gregor does believe that consumers will have more affordable options and less difficulty finding health insurance when the Affordable Care Act takes full effect.  According to the Orlando Sentinel’s “More details emerge on Florida health insurance exchange,” Marni Jameson said that we now know how many insurers will offer plans in each Florida county.  It’s actually not as many as you might expect, with some counties only having one insurer offering plans.  Blue Cross Blue Shield will be the lone insurer in some of the more rural counties, but they assure Floridians that their prices reflect expected competition and not the fact that they are the sole option in some places.

Ten insurance companies were federally approved to offer plans in Florida, some in one county and some in many of Florida’s 67 counties.  Aetna Life Insurance Company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Cigna Health & Life Insurance Company, Coventry Health Care of Florida Inc., Florida Health Care Plan Inc., Health First Health Plans, Health First Insurance Company, Health Options Inc., Humana Medical Plan Inc., and Molina Health Care of Florida Inc. are the ten approved companies.  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida will be the only insurance company offering affordable coverage in all 67 counties.  The big counties in South Florida like Miami-Dade and Broward will have nine different choices, but which insurers are operating in which counties has yet to be released.  Palm Beach county residents will have eight insurance choices and most Central Florida counties have five or six different options from which to choose.

Each insurance company will offer different tiers of plans that will range from bronze to platinum.  The lower plans will obviously offer less coverage than the highest plans, but you can choose what you need for the price you will be able to afford.  The government is offering credits to Americans with certain income levels to help pay for the cost of their mandated health insurance.  In order to receive any government help with health insurance though, you have to choose from the federally approved plans.  In 21 counties in Florida, Blue Cross Blue Shield or Florida Blue as they operate in the state, will be the only insurance exchange option.  Other counties will have more choices.  But each county will have at least one insurance company operating in it, something that some state have not yet been able to accomplish.  If you live in Florida and are looking to purchase health insurance through the new exchange soon, you should have some affordable options for coverage.

Buying Health Insurance From a Storefront

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

I must say that I’m really intrigued by the concept of store fronts where they sell health insurance.  According to The San Francisco Chronicle’s “Health care coverage sold in stores,” Alex Nussbaum says that UnitedHealth Group is one of the driving forces behind this change in the industry.  As the largest medical insurer in the United States, UnitedHealth Group is trying out this retail plan in anticipation of the health care changes taking place in 2014.  When the individual health insurance mandate goes into effect, there could be 85 million people comparing plans as they shop in public and private health insurance exchanges.  Those Americans account for nearly $600 billion in spending power.

UnitedHealth has already opened 8 retail health insurance stores in the U.S., mostly for helping current customers now, but hopefully to bring new business in as well.  Their storefront locations are located from New York to Los Angeles.  The company has also made 16 mall locations throughout the central U.S. permanent retail shops.  Opening retail storefronts is a way for health insurance companies to get their name out there and let potential customers know how much help they can offer when they can walk in just as they do to their bank.

Highmark, Inc. of Pennsylvania has already opened 9 storefronts, while Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida has 11 places for customers to get health insurance information.  Experts point out that these retail stores have to provide valuable services to their customers and potential customers in order to gain any significant business from the storefronts.  They can’t just be a marketing tool; they have to add value and really help consumers.  Answer questions that no one else can, give discounts not available elsewhere, and really help consumers figure out how the new health care laws affect them and their health insurance.  But many people appreciate all of the extras offered in addition to information.  Some storefronts offer blood pressure and other health checks or are attached to medical care facilities.  Others have translators for many languages and toys to keep children occupied while parents get information on anything from healthy eating to health insurance quotes.  Next time you are walking down the street and see a health insurance storefront, you may want to stop in and check it out.

Florida Blue is New Name of BCBS Florida

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Inc. now has a new name, according to the Jacksonville Daily Record’s “BCBS is now Florida Blue.”  The company is changing their focus from simply being a health insurance company to more of a health solutions company, and they hope that the name Florida Blue will help with that transition.  They will remain a non-profit company owned by its policyholders and paying taxes as a mutual company.  Along with the new moniker Florida Blue, the company will have a new logo and use the tagline “In the pursuit of health.”  Both old customers and new consumers will begin seeing signage, ads, and even sponsorships almost immediately.

They are changing their business model from a focus solely on health insurance to one that is more multi-dimensional.  Many health insurance companies are realizing that a more comprehensive view on healthcare is a great way to eventually lower costs and make consumers healthier by focusing on healthy habits before they need health care for being sick.  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida has been around for almost 70 years and is known for very personal service and a strong customer focus.  Programs like the affordable Go Blue Florida are likely to remain intact, possibly with some changes to focus even more on preventative health.

Health Insurance Rates Only Part of Customer Satisfaction

Friday, April 29th, 2011

map PAPennsylvania health plans ranked higher in customer satisfaction than the national average in J.D. Power & Associates’ U.S. Member Health Insurance Plan Study.  According to “UPMC, Geisinger, Highmark lead Pa. customer satisfaction rankings” by Bob Graham of Insurance & Financial Advisor, UPMC Health Plan ranked the highest in Pennsylvania.  While health insurance rates are important to consumers, this study also looked at the coverage and benefits, customer service, communications, information, provider choice, claims processing, statements given, and the approval process.  UPMC scored 744 out of 1,000, well above the national average of 696 and significantly higher than Pennsylvania’s average of 714.

Geisinger Health Plan and Highmark BlueCross BlueShield followed UPMC in Pennsylvania’s rankings with scores of 737 and 735, respectively.  Capital Blue Cross and Independence BlueCross also scored higher than the state’s average.  Although Pennsylvania’s scores went down slightly in 2011, compared to 2010, four of the seventeen other regions surveyed saw much more significant declines.  Some of the insurance companies that scored lower than average in Pennsylvania were Highmark Blue Shield, CIGNA, HealthAmerica/HealthAssurance, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Aetna, and UnitedHealthcare.  Of the 34,000 insurance plan members surveyed, 2,684 were in Pennsylvania.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Rate Increase in Rhode Island

Friday, March 18th, 2011

According to The Providence Journal in Rhode Island, insurance rates from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island are going up.  Richard Salit’s article “State approves reduced health insurance rate hike” says that the Health Insurance Commissioner of Rhode Island approved a rate increase of 1.9% for consumers purchasing their health insurance directly from Blue Cross Blue Shield.  Although an increase is still an increase, the percentage could have been much higher.  Blue Cross had requested an increase of 7.9%, which could have financially impacted many in the state.  They are the only health insurance company that residents not eligible for employer or government health coverage can use.

Rhode Island’s Health Commissioner said that he worked hard to find a balance between keeping insurance rates low for consumers while still maintaining solvency for Blue Cross Blue Shield.  He didn’t want to hurt the company while helping consumers or vice versa.  Since Rhode Island residents cannot compare health insurance quotes from different companies, the state feels an obligation to protect their consumers from unnecessary rate hikes.  While they didn’t approve Blue Cross’s initial request, the company was able to process a rate increase that the Commissioner believes is fair to everyone.

Blue Cross is not happy with this outcome however.  A spokesperson for the company said that their 7.9% request was justified by numbers and that the company has been diligent in reducing their expenses.  They have even cut administrative costs by $15 million.  The Direct Pay customers’ rate increases will go into effect on April 1, but there is always the possibility that Blue Cross will appeal the decision made by the Commissioner.  He defends the smaller rate increase, however, by stating that Direct Pay customers are very vulnerable to insurance companies so he must protect them.

AskBlue Discusses Health Insurance Rates Based on Reform

Friday, January 14th, 2011

According to company news release “BCBSA Introduces AskBlue Healthcare Reform,” Blue Cross Blue Shield Association now has an online tool to help customers understand health care reform.  The tool, called AskBlue Healthcare Reform, is available for use by both individuals and employers.  The interactive tool is meant to help BCBSA’s customers understand how the health care laws will effect their plans and what options they have.

After consumers answer a few questions on the website, they receive personalized information regarding the health care reform.  The simple program tells consumers how the reform changes will personally effect them and their insurance plans.  They can see how health insurance rates may change and compare their plans before and after health care reform.  There is also access to further information on government websites for those interested.

Business information is available as well, including a calculator to see if businesses will qualify for a tax credit related to their health care expenses.  Businesses can also learn how health care reform will impact them financially in other ways.  You don’t even have to be a BCBSA customer to access their AskBlue services.  In addition to the AskBlue Healthcare Reform, BCBSA offers AskBlue, which gives information to uninsured consumers, AskBlue En Espanol, and AskBlue Medicare.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Issuing Refunds

Friday, October 29th, 2010

The new health law that went into effect on March 23 is causing Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina to dole out $156 million in refunds to its customers.  USA Today’s article by Alison Young, “Blue Cross to refund $156 million in N.C.,” speculates that other insurers in other states may be doing the same.  North Carolina’s health insurance regulators have been looking into its insurers’ practices deeply since the government’s new health care law in March and found that their insurers need to make some changes.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina recently requested approval to increase the rates they charge their customers.  It was determined that the company was building up reserves in order to finance claims that it will need to pay in 2014 and beyond, when many more changes to the health care law will go into effect.  If you compare health insurance today to what it will look like in 2014, there will be many differences.

As a result of this inquiry, 215,000 individual policyholders in North Carolina will be getting refunds by the end of this year.  The reserves system was not put into place for group plans so they are not effected by this refund.  Average policyholders can expect to receive around $690 each.  Reserves were collected in the beginning of a policy being issued to help keep the premium costs even throughout the life of the plan, but the new health care law doesn’t allow insurance to work that way.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is looking into whether this is a larger issue that needs to be addressed nationally.

Highmark Collaborates with Blue Cross Blue Shield

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware (BCBSD) is now working closely with Highmark Inc. of Pennsylvania.  According to Blue Cross Blue Shield’s press release “Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware Announces Affiliation Agreement with Highmark Inc.,” this business relationship will strengthen the cost-effectiveness of the two companies.  It will also allow Blue Cross Blue Shield to bring Delaware residents some new products and services.

BCBSD has been working for four years on new corporate planning techniques to save money while remaining a competitive and leading force in the local marketplace.  By working closely with Highmark, BCBSD will remain a non-profit organization while enhancing their operations in a cost effective way.  As it has gotten harder for small, independent companies to stay competitive because of cost increases in the medical field, affiliations like this will probably become more common.

Once the Delaware Department of Insurance finishes their approval process, the two companies will be able to work together on investments towards new systems and other business capabilities.  Compare health insurance costs and they will be better positioned to keep customers happy by sharing investment expenses and capital requirements.  They will reduce administrative costs by sharing not only costs but current capabilities and systems that the other may not have.