Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield undecided on joining health Iowa insurance exchange « Health Insurance Advisory

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new healthcare reform lawThe new healthcare law, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), represents comprehensive healthcare reform legislation signed into law on March 23, 2010. It contains numerous provisions designed to protect consumers and promote low cost medical insurance, including many new taxes to pay for the cost.

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Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield undecided on joining health Iowa insurance exchange

Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Iowa’s dominant health insurer is considering staying out of the state’s planned health insurance exchange- a move that could hamstring the initiative. A spokesperson for the company said that it hasn’t decided whether it would offer coverage through Iowa’s planned health medical insurance exchange.Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield provides three-quarters of it medical insurance plans to Iowa individuals, families and the self employed, and small employers, roughly 1.8 million Iowans.

Medical insurance exchanges are expected to play a key part of the new healthcare law. Supporters say the computerized systems will help millions of individual, families and the self employed, including small employers across the country shop, compare and purchase affordable medical insurance, starting in 2014. Moderate income Americans would be required to use health insurance exchanges to qualify for public subsidies for insurance coverage.

Health insurance experts say the insurance exchange would benefit from participation from Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, which has by far the most extensive network of Iowa doctors and hospitals accepting its insurance. Because of its huge market share, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield has powerful leverage to negotiate lower prices for care.

“If we looked and said there’s a high probability of us losing a whole lot of money, would our owners want us to do that?” said a company spokesperson. A Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield spokeswoman said the company has two teams looking into the issue, and the health insurer wants to participate in discussions of how the new system should be designed.

Americans are supposed to be able to secure affordable medical insurance plans through health insurance exchanges starting in 2014. Iowa is working toward setting up its own. Legislators failed to agree on key details of the program last spring, but Insurance Division administrators say they are moving ahead with planning. If the state fails to set up an exchange, federal authorities would take over the effort.

Larry Levitt, a vice president for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said he understands Wellmark’s Blue Cross Blue Shield discomfort with uncertainty about what’s going to happen in 2014. “But that uncertainty should dissipate between now and then,” he said. Levitt pointed out that public subsidies would be offered through the exchanges to Americans with incomes up to 400 percent of the poverty level, which now amounts to about $89,000 annually for a family of four. Health insurers that decline to participate in the exchanges would be turning away business from many of those people, he said.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss noted that few details of the state exchange have been set. “There’s no legislation. What is there for them to react to?” she asked of Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield leaders. Voss said she doubted many national health insurers would try to fill the void if Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield decided to stay out of Iowa’s insurance exchange. She said it would remain hard for those companies to set up extensive networks of health care providers to serve a thinly spread population. Voss said she will continue to talk to the governor, state legislators and federal officials, among others, to iron out the details of the new exchange.

Are you searching for an affordable medical insurance plan in Iowa? Get instant low cost medical insurance quotes from Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and other leading medical insurance companies. It is free. You can even apply online too. At healthinsuranceadvisory.org, we also feature individual dental insurance and a wide range of other health insurance plans, such as short term medical insurancecritical illness protection and medical insurance overseas travel. We can help you save money and ensure you and your family is adequately protected. Get started today!

- Des Moines Register

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