BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee files to sell Obamacare plans in 2018

More than 230,000 Tennesseans are enrolled in a health insurance plan on the federally run exchange just as the new Republican-led Congress clamors to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
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BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is the first insurer to officially line up to sell individual insurance in Tennessee for 2018.

The Chattanooga-based insurer submitted preliminary filings to sell plans next year to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance on June 20. BCBST plans to sell individual insurance in most parts of the state.

The insurer is preparing to re-enter the greater Knoxville market, which was temporarily without an insurer for 2018 after Humana announced plans to exit. It will not be in the greater Memphis or Nashville areas.

"We intend to participate but we will continue to monitor for changes at the federal level that could impact our decision on whether to sign the agreement in September," said Mary Danielson, a spokesperson for BlueCross in Chattanooga.

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Insurance companies go through a multi-step approval process to sell individual insurance. June 21 is the deadline to declare intent to sell while premium requests are due by the end of July 1.

The TDCI will review and ultimately approve or deny premium requests before the the applications get sent to federal officials for final approval. Insurers have until the end of the federal process to withdraw from the individual market.

Cigna is expected to remain in the market and the insurance commissioner expects that a metro area could see a new entrant.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leaders Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the Senate's bill to repeal and replace Obamacare will be released Thursday, and a vote on the measure could take place as soon as next week.

Reach Holly Fletcher at hfletcher@tennessean.com or 615-259-8287 and on Twitter @hollyfletcher.