Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 8, 2014

Blue Cross executive: Enrollments increasing

BY GLENN PUIT gpuit@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — It’s getting better.

That’s what an executive with Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Care Network of Michigan said Friday about the number of people getting new health insurance policies under the federal government’s Affordable Care Act.

“We have seen a significant amount of membership within the health exchanges in the last three to four weeks,” said Jeffrey Connolly, president of West Michigan Operations & Managed Care for Blue Cross Blue Shield. “It’s far better today than it was a month ago, and it continues to improve each week.”

Connolly said many people don’t realize March 31 is the deadline for obtaining health insurance for the remainder of 2014. People who don’t sign sign up for health insurance by the federal government’s deadline face possible fines of $95 or 1 percent of household income — whichever is greater — and they will not be able to sign up again until November, meaning they will go without health insurance until January 2015.

Connolly said the number of younger adults enrolling in health insurance plans remains lower than desired so far, and that the law will, over the long-haul, force at least some small businesses to make difficult decisions about continuing to offer health insurance plans to their employees.

“The smaller employers, really the ones that are under 100 employees; big questions about the continued affordability,” Connolly said.

Every business is different, but he said small employers who already offer limited health benefits will have to assess whether it’s worth it to boost their health insurance coverage to meet federal requirements for their employees or drop health insurance plans and pay a penalty to the government.

“You have to provide minimum benefits and in some instances these smaller employers did not provide that many benefits that they now have to,” he said. “We didn’t see a big disruption, but frankly we do see potential disruption.”