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Most Marketplace plans sold were BlueCross BlueShield

By Carly Harrington, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

May 07--A majority of Tennessee residents who purchased health insurance on the federal marketplace opted for a plan offered by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

The state's largest insurer, BlueCross Blue Shield said of the 151,352 Tennesseans that signed up during the five-month open enrollment period, 133,291 chose a BlueCross Marketplace plan.

Henry Smith, BlueCross senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said the carrier aggressively marketed its plans and spent a lot of time educating the public on them.

"Candidly, it was part of a strategy we started when health reform came about. Our plan all along was to get all the membership we could," said Smith, who noted the carrier's final enrollment numbers were slightly higher than expected.

Tennessee residents, depending on where they lived, could buy plans from BlueCross, Community Health Alliance and Humana. However, BlueCross was the only carrier to offer a plan in all 95 counties.

Community Health Alliance declined to disclose how many residents bought one of its plans. Humana could not be reached for comment.

Most of BlueCross' Marketplace policies were sold in the Nashville area, where 30 percent of enrollees bought a plan, followed by 16 percent in Knoxville, 14 percent in Memphis and 11 percent in Chattanooga. At least 55 percent of consumers chose its Network E plan.

BlueCross plans were reported to be among the lowest priced in the country. The final numbers "very clearly" told BlueCross that people want affordable insurance options so they can buy it, Smith said.

The carrier didn't capture as many younger members as it had hoped. About a quarter of enrollees are 18-24 while 29 percent are older than 55. Smith said the carrier will consider "how do we target more of that younger group going forward."

Smith also acknowledged there had been some operational challenges.

"We learned it's really hard to manage call volumes of 5,000 to 10,000 a day," he said. "I know there was some frustration up front, wait times that we would never want."

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(c)2014 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)

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