As the health benefits market continues to change and evolve, one provider says it remains committed to providing affordable options via its plan options and hospital partnerships.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan/Blue Care Network has been in the insurance business for 77 years. BCBSM’s Jason Loepp, director of retention in West Michigan, said the company has kept an “even par” number of individuals covered compared to 2015. This year, it covers around 1.246 million individuals, compared to 1.249 million last year in its West Michigan service region, with 4.5-million members statewide. The company also said its employee retention in the region remains stable, with 625 employees working in West Michigan this year and “around the same” number last year.
Loepp said there are several factors that BCBSM hopes will keep it competitive in the individual market, as it heads into open enrollment season.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all plan,” he said. “We continue to offer a multitude of options, from gold to bronze. We will have 30 Blue Cross Blue Shield plans to offer in 2017.”
In Grand Rapids, BCBSM has created a local partnership with Mercy Health Saint Mary’s that is a symbiotic relationship for both, allowing for increased coverage and competitive pricing.
Helen Stojic, a BCBSM spokesperson, said the goal of hospital and doctor partnerships, such as the one with Mercy, is to reduce costs down the line by focusing on preventive measures.
“We greatly value our partnerships with doctors and hospitals and have been recognized nationally for those initiatives,” she said. “We did one for bariatric surgery, one for angioplasty and several for other types of common procedures.”
Loepp added, “We’ve prevented 1.4 billion dollars in health care costs by focusing on outcomes.”
Stojic and Loepp said BCBSM aims to focus on local, in-person customer support as a method of retention.
“I’m sitting inside one of our four walk-in centers in West Michigan, located off Cascade Road, and we have a health plan advisor here, as well as downtown, in Holland and Kalamazoo,” Loepp said.
Referencing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, Loepp said BCBSM has been able to step in and compete for customers’ business on the individual market.
“The market is changing, which leads to a more competitive landscape in Michigan,” Loepp said. “The individual market is in a flux, an unsettled state. We need to take into consideration that things are changing, such as the prices, who we’re covering and the fact that some employers have stopped offering PPO plans and some insurers have left the state altogether. But we have not left the market or stopped offering PPO insurance plans. We are committed to the state of Michigan.”
Stojic said another service BCBSM provides is being a watchdog for health fraud.
“We’re always looking at fighting fraud in health care,” she said. “We have an internal fraud investigation unit that’s one of the oldest … across the country. We work in tandem with law enforcement agencies in Michigan and have been doing that since 1980.”
Loepp said BCBSM plans to grow by building on its strengths: “(Providing) the right service at the right times at the right locations.”