Fourth insurer plans statewide exchange offerings

UnitedHealthcare is the fourth health insurer seeking to offer insurance statewide in Georgia’s exchange next year.

The Minnesota-based company would join Coventry, Time Insurance Co. and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia in offering health plans in all regions of the state.

Healthcare Cost

This year, Blue Cross was the only statewide insurer in the Georgia exchange, which was created under the Affordable Care Act.

Counting the four that plan statewide offerings, there are nine insurers applying to participate in the Georgia exchange to some degree. The state’s insurance department released rate data for eight of the nine applicants earlier this month, but omitted data from UnitedHealthcare, saying it had an incomplete application.

The agency said Friday that the application is now complete, and it released United’s proposed rate information.

The 2014 insurance exchange featured wide variability in rates between regions. In metro Atlanta, for instance, multiple plan choices were offered, while in southwest Georgia, only Blue Cross offered plans. The southwest Georgia region had among the highest exchange premiums in the nation this year.

But experts, noting that the proposed Blue Cross rates for next year’s exchange will decrease by an average of 7 percent, say the southwest Georgia region is expected to see lower premiums in 2015.

A total of nine insurers seeking to offer exchange plans in 2015 is up from five for the current year.

Along with United, three other new insurers – Coventry, Time Insurance and Cigna – are seeking to join the five holdovers from this year’s exchange that are also submitting rates for review: Alliant Health Plans, Blue Cross, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, and Peach State Health Plans.

Dr. Harry Heiman, director of health policy for the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, said Friday that more insurers will mean more choices for Georgia consumers.

Dr Harry Heiman
Dr. Harry Heiman

“It’s an incredibly positive sign,’’ he said. “The market is speaking.”

Other signs of ACA success, Heiman said, include studies that show the law has reduced the number of uninsured adults by 8 million to 11 million in its first year.

He also cited a recent survey of Blue Cross plans nationwide estimating that $1 out of every $5 in reimbursements is being paid under an arrangement in which providers are rewarded for improving care and lowering costs. Those are central goals of the ACA, Heiman noted.

A number of states’ exchanges had a rocky debut last fall because of technical problems, and many people in Georgia and elsewhere were unable to enroll initially. With an intensive repair effort and some relaxed deadlines, enrollments eventually surged and reached or exceeded projections.