Blue Cross of California To Introduce New Low-Premium Health Plan
Officials for Blue Cross of California, a subsidiary of WellPoint Health Networks, on Tuesday announced that the company will introduce an individual health plan, called RightPlan, that has monthly premiums as low as $70 but also requires members to make a $40 copayment for physician visits and cover 40% of the cost of hospital bills, the Sacramento Bee reports. RightPlan does not include maternity care coverage but does provide discounts on weight-loss programs and gym memberships, as well as on acupuncture and other alternative treatments. According to the Bee, Blue Cross plans to market RightPlan to individuals ages 18 to 34, the age group most likely to lack health insurance.
Such health plans have "cropped up with greater frequency" in recent years as health insurers attempt to respond to consumer demand for lower premiums, and many observers predict that RightPlan "is a good indicator of what lies ahead" in the health insurance industry, the Bee reports. "Consumers will learn they have to pay one way or another," Tom Morrison, a senior vice president with the benefits consulting company Segal, said, adding, "They have a choice. They can pay on the front end to save money when they see a doctor, or they can delay expenses by paying low premiums and accepting that high copayments and deductibles go with the territory." However, Anthony Wright, executive director of patient advocacy group Health Access, said that Blue Cross "has been a leader in pushing more costs to consumers. ... The point of insurance is to not worry about your bank account when you go to the doctor, and insurers seem to increasingly be missing this point." Robert David, regional vice president for the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California, said, "I don't see how you can responsibly sell something to a woman of child-bearing age that does not cover maternity." Kellie Bernell, a spokesperson for Blue Cross, said that the company has introduced a number of consumer-driven health plans with lower premiums to help reduce the number of uninsured California residents. "We offer about 10 other plans individuals can choose from if this one isn't exactly right," she said (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 10/29).
The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday profiled WellPoint CEO and Chair Leonard Schaeffer and his predictions about the future of the health insurance industry. According to Schaeffer, advances in information technology will allow health insurers to introduce health plans "tailored to specific illnesses and individual wants and needs," the Times reports (Flanigan, Los Angeles Times, 10/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.