Half of insurer's ACA clients choose cost-conscious plan

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The overwhelming majority of Tennesseans who signed up forhealth insurance via the federal exchange created by the Affordable Care Act chose policies offered by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the state's largest insurer.

According to data from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, 31,316 Tennesseans were enrolled in BlueCross marketplace plans as of Dec. 28.

According to a Jan. 13 report from the Department of Health and Human Services, 36,250 Tennesseans total enrolled in marketplace plans during that same time frame. That means BlueCross Blue­Shield of Tennessee covers 86 percent of the market for Tennesseans enrolled in insurance policies through the federal exchange.

About 30 percent of those new enrollees for BCBST live in the Nashville area.

About half of the people who enrolled in BCBST marketplace plans chose NetworkE, which the insurer designed for cost-conscious consumers. Network E appeals to people who value price more than choice of providers, spokesman Roy Vaughn said.

BCBST offers Network E plans only in its major markets: Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville. In Nashville, members with Network E plans can get care at Saint Thomas Health's facilities.

The 31,316 new members are a significant addition in terms of BCBST's total policy count, said Henry Smith, chief marketing officer for BCBST. Before the marketplace, BCBST had roughly 100,000 people enrolled in individual plans.

"If you look at a three-month period, that's a pretty significant increase," Smith said.

Another spike expected

About a quarter of the BCBST marketplace enrollees are between 18 and 34 years old, and that's about the same proportion as people in that age group enrolled in marketplace plans offered by various carriers nationwide.

"As a whole, BCBST's Marketplace membership closely mirrors the Marketplace demographics at both the state and national levels," the new report said.

Going forward, Smith said, he expects another spike of new members to join BCBST's marketplace plans before open enrollment ends March 31. "We took over 10,000 calls in the last five days before the Dec. 31 cutoff. I expect we will see a similar pattern," he said. "That's how people purchase."

People purchasing marketplace plans research BlueCross products extensively. On average, potential members called BCBST three times before purchasing a plan, and those calls lasted between five and 15 minutes. "This is a major purchase," Smith said, especially for the newly insured and people who have traditionally received insurance through their employer.

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