Upcoming changes under the health care law

It has been a busy year for the health care industry, and it is only halfway through. We have seen remarkable progress made toward implementing provisions of the new health care law as they become effective, but I know many of you still have concerns about the changes yet to be implemented. You can rest assured that our team at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield has been working to determine how to best address these challenges.

Arkansas Medicaid expansion

Arkansas historically has had one of the most restrictive Medicaid programs in the country, and I applaud the bipartisan efforts of the Arkansas Legislature and Gov. Mike Beebe to create the Arkansas Medicaid private option that was signed into law in April.

Arkansas is the first state in the nation to create a system allowing qualified low-income Arkansans to purchase subsidized private insurance through the state’s Health Insurance Marketplace, but other states are watching with interest. For the first three years, this program will be funded entirely with federal money.

Expanding Medicaid to provide health care coverage to low income Arkansans is the right thing to do. It not only benefits people who are struggling financially, it benefits their families, the business owners who hire these workers, our health care providers and the state’s economy. Ultimately, we will see the benefits of a healthier population.

Controlling health care costs

Many of you may have heard news reports concerning increases in premium costs as a result of new regulations under the health care law. There are provisions of the law that will increase costs for some, but there will be both winners and losers under the new regulations.

Why are costs increasing for some? The law requires the insurance industry to cover more services, offer some services at no cost to the member, and calculate premiums according to new guidelines. There also are a number of new taxes and fees included within the law. Certainly, most Americans understand that when you provide free or reduced-cost insurance to millions of people and cover more services, there will be a cost associated with it.

In this issue of Blue &You, we explain some of the new provisions within the health care law and what we believe you can expect regarding your coverage. Some of you will find that your coverage will be less expensive in the future; for others, it will be more costly. Regardless of the impact, Arkansas Blue Cross has spent the past two years working to find solutions that will provide you and your family affordable insurance options.

If you purchase health care coverage for you and your family on your own, we will be reaching out to you this summer to request a health insurance review. During a phone call or a visit we can cover any changes the law will require and make you aware of the most affordable choices available to you. It is important that you are informed about your options and you that maintain your “grandfathered” status until you have the information needed to aid in the decision process. Our customer support teams are ready to provide you with the information you need to make a good decision for you and your family. You also can request a review with an agent if you have one, or you can go to one of our locations throughout the state.

If you are age 65 or older and have coverage through one of our Medicare products, there should be no changes to your health plan until 2016 as a result of the health care law. We will discuss those changes in future issues.

If you are an employer with two to 50 employees, you will be receiving information regarding Arkansas Blue Cross meetings being held throughout the state to help our employer customers learn how the new regulations may impact their businesses. Afterward, you will be contacted by an agent or an Arkansas Blue Cross representative to discuss your situation in more detail. Until then, our advice is that you not make any changes to your health plan.

If you are an employer with 51 or more employees, you likely already have been discussing options with an agent or Arkansas Blue Cross representative. If not, I encourage you to do so in the coming months.

At Arkansas Blue Cross, we are concerned with making health care affordable for everyone. We applaud the efforts of our state for coming up with a unique solution to take care of the many Arkansans who can’t afford health care. And, we will continue to provide our members with the most affordable health care coverage available by finding solutions that work within health care reform regulations and giving our members the protection they deserve.