Blue Cross changes OK'd without abortion provision

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 21, 2013 at 10:36 pm •  Published: February 21, 2013
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Under the legislation:

— Blue Cross rate increase requests would be reviewed by the state insurance commissioner, as other insurers currently are, and no longer be subject to an extra layer of scrutiny by the Michigan attorney general.

— Blue Cross would shed its charitable "social mission" and contribute nearly $1.6 billion over 18 years to an endowment working to improve public health and health care access.

— From mid-2016 through 2021, the fund would disburse $120 million — or nearly $25 million a year — to subsidize Medigap plans, which fill the gap in Medicare coverage for seniors. Blue Cross now spends about $200 million a year, or 1 percent of revenue, to lower the cost of its Medigap policies.

Senior advocates who oppose the legislation warned legislators Thursday of sticker shop coming once a rate freeze on Medigap plans for 200,000 seniors ends in 2016. Blue Cross countered that rates go up anytime a freeze is lifted and newer insurance products such as Medicare Advantage plans will continue to be affordable options for seniors.

Bob Fox with the Michigan Senior Advocates Council said the attorney general office's has restrained Blue Cross rate hikes that would have been much higher. Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette opposes the bills.

"We're talking about taking the attorney general out of the process? Please rethink that," Fox said. "He's a seniors' attorney. We can't afford high-priced attorneys like Blue Cross can. AGs from both parties have done a wonderful job protecting us."

Mark Cook, vice president of governmental affairs for Blue Cross, said Medigap is not people's primary insurance and seniors' health bills are mostly covered by Medicare.

"We've been forced to sell below cost. There will be more competition in the Medigap marketplace with adoption of these bills," he said.

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Online:

Senate Bills 61-62: http://1.usa.gov/XPFD3X

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Email David Eggert at deggert(at)ap.org and follow him at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00



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