Leaders with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee have launched a campaign to educate members whose insurance premiums will be impacted by the Affordable Care Act.
"We feel like we have the responsibility to do that," Roy Vaughn, vice president of corporate communication with BCBST, said. "We don't think they should have to piece information together to try to get the whole picture. We try to present them with a complete look at the impacts."
So they have launched a website—KnowTheCostTN.com—to help residents sort out the facts.
Click here to read what Bill Gracey wrote on the topic.
There are three groups that will be impacted: individual members, small employer groups and large employer groups.
Leaders noted that these are averages, so it doesn't mean that every member in these groups will have that much of an increase.
The majority of members, who are either small or large employer members, will see an increase of between 3 and 10 percent.
Members insured through large employers will be affected the least and will see an average of a 3 to 5 percent increase, officials said.
And small employer group members will see an average of a 10 percent increase.
Individual members could see an average of a 30 percent increase, but that increase will impact the smallest number of people.
According to BCBST's 2012 annual statement that was filed with the state of Tennessee, individual and group membership was 610,556 people last year.
There were 98,064 individual members.
Using those numbers, about 16 percent of members would be impacted by the biggest premium increase of an average of 30 percent.
About 83 percent of members are either in the small or large employer groups and would see less of an increase.
Vaughn said that BCBST leaders did research at the beginning of the year to see what people knew about the changes coming from the Affordable Care Act, which will provide health care coverage to 30 million people.
He said that people had some level of awareness of the possible impacts on privately insured individuals, and there was a fairly high awareness that costs would rise, but many people weren't sure why.
So, the KnowTheCostTN campaign is meant to help people understand why premiums will be impacted.
And spokeswoman Mary Danielson said this campaign is not a political statement.
"It's not meant to be a critical view of health care reform," she said. "It's a straightforward assessment. There are some really good things about the law in terms of expanding access to people. We believe expanding access is terrific."
BCBST leaders said there are several reasons for rate increases:
—Expanded benefits: All health insurance policies will have to cover a broader range of benefits than are typically included in many policies today. Paying for those mandatory benefits will cost more.
—Guaranteed coverage: Health insurers will be required to accept all individuals and employer groups that apply for coverage regardless of their health status or pre-existing conditions, with a few limited exceptions.
—Lower deductibles, higher premiums: Plans purchased by small employers will be required to have lower deductibles. Premiums are based in part on how much the plan and the member will each pay for health care services, so lower deductibles will mean higher premiums.
—Health insurance tax: The federal government will also impose a new tax on health insurance premiums to help subsidize costs for individuals buying insurance through the federal exchange or marketplace.
Leaders also said that as a result of the new law, BCBST will pay about $230 million extra in taxes next year.
"The cost of that also needs to be built into the coverage," Vaughn said.
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