A new set of proposalsÂ provide some of the strongest evidence yet that ObamacareÂ â€”Â once on the verge of collapse in TennesseeÂ â€” has stabilized.
The stateâ€™s largest insurance company, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee,Â plans to reenter the Affordable Care Act marketplace in Nashville, Memphis and surrounding counties next year, providing anotherÂ option for residents on Obamacare. Additionally, two other insurance companies that already offer Obamacare in these cities, Cigna and Oscar Health, are planning to significantly reduce the cost of their coverage plans.
Although the proposals are not final, it appears Tennesseans will have more options and competitive prices in the coming year, said Kevin Walters, aÂ spokesman for the Department of Commerce and Insurance.
“Itâ€™s important that people remember that the rates arenâ€™t just numbers on a page,” Walters said. “The rates impact peopleâ€™s lives, their businesses and their ability to provide insurance for their families. The tighter market and the increased choices are good news.”
Five insurance companies that currently offer Obamacare coverage planÂ to continue to do so next year, according to the department. The companies have submitted the following proposals to state regulators for approval:
- BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee: Expanding coverage into Nashville, Memphis and surrounding counties. Proposed 2020 rate request seeking an average increase of 1.4%.Â
- Bright Health:Â Coverage continues in Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville areas; rates increase an average ofÂ 2.93%.
- Celtic/Ambetter Insurance: Coverage continues in Chattanooga and Memphis and expandsÂ into Nashville and Knoxville; rates decrease an average 1.6%.
- Cigna: Coverage continues in Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and the Tri-Cities area and expands intoÂ Chattanooga,Â Jackson and surrounding counties; premiums decrease 5.7%.
- Oscar Health:Â Coverage continues in Nashville and Memphis; rates decrease an average ofÂ 8.3%.
The most significant shiftÂ comes from BlueCross, the largest insurance companyÂ in Tennessee by far.Â BlueCross was initially the only insurer to offer ObamacareÂ coverage across the entire state, but the company pulled out of Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville in 2017,Â citing heavy financial losses.
BlueCross reentered the Knoxville market in 2018Â and is now poised to come back to the other cities,Â too.Â If the company follows through on its plan, it will once again offer Obamacare across all of Tennessee.Â
â€œThis means you have another option to choose from on healthcare.gov,â€ said Roy Vaughn, a BlueCross spokesman, on Wednesday.Â â€œWe will compete with other carriers,Â and we believe we can compete strongly because weÂ are focused solely on Tennessee. We are the hometown health insurance.â€
These insuranceÂ proposalsÂ are part of a dramatic turnaround for Obamacare in Tennessee.Â Three years ago, rates were climbing and options were shrinking, prompting then-state insurance Commissioner Julie MixÂ McPeak to warn theÂ marketplace wasÂ “very near collapse.” Since then, rates have dropped as competition has increased, at least in part because of expansionsÂ like those now proposed by BlueCross, Celtic and Cigna.
None of thisÂ is final, however.
The insurance proposals revealed WednesdayÂ must still be approved by state and federal officials, and any of these companies mayÂ change their plansÂ over the next few months. The Affordable Care Act is also under fire from the Trump administration and is being challenged in the courts of several Republican-led states, including Tennessee, making the future of Obamacare in 2020 far from certain.
Brett Kelman is the health care reporter for The Tennessean. He can be reached at 615-259-8287 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @brettkelman.
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