In an effort to help stem the economic pain being experienced by Michigan’s small businesses and their employees, Health Alliance Plan, through its annual rate filing with the state Department of Insurance and Financial Services, requested approval to reduce premiums for its small employer group market.
“We know the COVID-19 pandemic took an enormous economic toll on small businesses, which are truly the heartbeat of Michigan’s economy,” said Margaret Anderson, HAP senior vice president, chief sales and marketing officer. “We worked tirelessly at HAP to design plans that would provide superior health care coverage and new care options, while also meeting the financial needs of small businesses as they recover from the economic disruption caused by the pandemic.”
HAP said it is responding to customer concerns by offering plans that are not only more affordable but also easier to understand, simpler to use and have no deductibles when the insurer assumes payment for a covered event.
“We wanted to be sure small groups had reliable premium reduction through 2020 so they could recover economically,” said Dr. Michael Genord, CEO of HAP.
HAP began this work in southeastern Michigan and chose to expand its efforts to other parts of the state after much positive feedback from physician groups, Genord said.
The small group filing for 2021 marks another entry point into the West Michigan market as it launches plans in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Oceana counties. With coverage for small group policies starting Jan. 1, HAP is providing employers on the west side of the state with another viable option for employee health insurance.
HAP first entered the West Michigan market this year after forming a Medicare Advantage plan with Mercy Health that enrolled 1,700 people in its first year.
“Our experience with West Michigan is an extreme level of excitement and energy,” he said. “From the physician community, I think there was excitement of bringing competition to the market and the result of 1,700 new Medicare Advantage members.”
HAP said it boasts highly competitive small group plans, with a 7.55% decrease for PPO plans and a 0.12% decrease for its HMO plans.
“One of guiding factors that HAP brings to any of our decisions is competition spurs quality,” Genord said. “When we come out to new communities, we’re able to offer quality and price disruption in the market.”
“People want choice, and right now in West Michigan it’s a two-player town: you’ve got Priority Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield,” Anderson added. “Here in southeast Michigan there’s a greater amount of competition with more carriers.”
The COVID-19 pandemic also changed overall health care operations, especially in Michigan as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order caused providers and patients alike to increasingly rely on virtual health care visits.
Recognizing the increased role telehealth is playing during COVID-19, HAP also launched the HMO Virtual Care Plan. This plan uses Henry Ford Health System as the virtual care provider, allowing plan participants statewide to take advantage of Henry Ford’s world-class network of physicians and health care professionals.
HMO Virtual Care Plans will be available in gold, silver and bronze tiers, featuring zero cost-sharing, meaning members will not be charged any copays, co-insurance or deductibles when using any telehealth services.
These plans will continue beyond any current or potential future stay-at-home orders, allowing those who live in rural areas or those who have difficulty leaving home due to child or elder care, mobility or health care issues to receive the health care services they need through the convenience of a virtual visit.
The state of Michigan defines small groups as anywhere from two to 50 employees, but HAP currently is looking to offer its product to large employers in 2021 as well.