On August 7, 2017, BlueCross BlueShield of Gerogia President, Jeff Fusile, released this statement:
"For more than seven decades, we’ve been proud to offer affordable health plans that give Georgians access to quality health care. In 2014, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) started, we created a new set of quality, affordable health plans to offer consumers through the Health Insurance Marketplace, also called the exchange.
But the market for these plans has become unstable. And with federal rules and guidance changing, it’s no longer possible for us to offer those plans."
Summary: Blue Cross intends not to offer exchange coverage and off-exchange individual policies in 2018 in the 74 Georgia counties (including all of metro-Atlanta) where there will be another insurer offering plans. That means fewer options for consumers in those areas.
More than 300,000 Georgians will be affected by this decision.
BlueCross' announcement is leaving many Georgians scratching their heads and wondering what options they have left.
Letters went out to BlueCross policyholders last week, informing them policies would end on December 31, 2017.
For those living in the counties affected by this decision (like Cherokee, Cobb, Fulton), you will have fewer choices for 2018. Currently, Ambetter (Medicaid network) and Kaiser (HMO) are both scheduled to offer policies in metro-Atlanta for 2018. Alliant will be another choice in North Georgia.
Why did BlueCross make this decision?
The decision is likely because of lack of federal funding and an unstable individual market. Blue Cross and other health insurers, meanwhile, are watching the White House moves on health care carefully.
BlueCross is not alone. Other large insurers such as United Healthcare, Humana, and Aenta/ Coventry are no longer offering individual policies in Georgia.
President Trump wants to eliminate the subsidies that go to insurers in the exchanges to help lower deductibles for customers with modest incomes.
And the White House has signaled it may not enforce the ACA tax penalty for Americans who don’t have health insurance. Polls show the insurance requirement is among the least popular ACA provisions, but supporters say it helps induce healthy people to get coverage, lessening the financial risk to insurance companies.
Earlier this year, Blue Cross requested an average premium increase of 40 percent for the exchange in 2018. But the insurer also indicated in its rate filings that if the subsidies were not renewed, it might readjust its rate request.
Debbie Diamond, Blue Cross spokesperson, remains hopeful saying, “will remain focused on developments in the individual marketplace and will continue to advocate for solutions that will stabilize the market and allow us to once again, offer individual insurance coverage throughout the state of Georgia.”
For now, we should assume that BlueCross will not be an option for individuals and families in most of Georgia for 2018. But since they have filed rates with the Insurance Commissioner's Office, they could change their minds. This will depend on federal funding decisions.
Which Georgia counties are not affected by this decision?
BlueCross agreed to offer policies only to the 85 rural counties that were at risk.
Georgia Insurance Commissioner, Ralph Hudgens, said that “my preference is that Blue Cross Blue Shield continues to offer health insurance in every Georgia county as they have in previous years. However, I am pleased that they have agreed to at least continue their offering in counties where they are the only option.”
To see a full list of counties where BlueCross is still available, look here.
Just the Facts:
* This decision will affect both on and off exchange individual health policies.
* BlueCross will still offer individual dental and vision products, just not individual health insurance.
* If you are currently insured on a BlueCross individual health policy, your current benefits and pricing will remain active until December 31, 2017.
* Do you have access to group benefits, either through your employer or your spouse/partner's employer? If so, you will be experiencing a Qualifying Life Event on December 31, 2017 and should consider be added to that coverage effective January 1, 2018.
* Do you own a business? If so, it's time to look at group health plans. (Call us. We can help.)
* Group (meaning, offered by a business) health plans will not be affected.
* Medicare health plans will not be affected.
Rick Bailey & Company Can Help
Since 1978, we've helped thousands of families and businesses secure affordable, high quality insurance products.
Our Individual Policy Specialists can help you navigate your choices, select the best plan for your needs and budget, see if you qualify for any tax credits, and enroll you online - all over the phone in just a few minutes. We charge a one-time consulting fee for individual health policies services. Contact us for pricing details.
Plan information will not be released until Open Enrollment begins November 1, 2017. Appointment slots fill up each year, so please contact us to reserve your consultation today.