Weekly Feature

2016-11-02 / Business

Blue Cross Blue Shield provides new offerings

With the open enrollment beginning Nov. 1, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York has set new plans as well as resources and support to help individuals select the best health plan for themselves while also avoid paying a tax penalty in 2017.

According to a press release, it is estimated that nearly 100,000 individuals in the eight counties of Western New York remain uninsured. The press release stated that over the past three years, the uninsured rate has declined from 14 percent to the current historic low of 7 percent.

The press release also said the trend has been fueled largely by the creation of the New York State of Health Marketplace, which has made obtaining health insurance coverage easier and more affordable for individuals and families in Western New York.

BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York officials said the company has attracted a large amount of these new enrollees and for 2017, will expand its offerings by entering the state’s Essential Plan, a lower-cost option for eligible individuals who do not qualify for Medicare, Medicaid or Child Health Plus.

The press release states that the Essential Plan offers the same essential benefits as other plans, but features no deductible and premiums as low as $0 per month.

Also new for 2017, BlueCross BlueShield is offering two lower-premium “tiered-benefit” plans that offer lower out-of-pocket costs when visiting hospitals and specialists affiliated with Kaleida Health and Catholic Health, respectively.

“We are responding to the marketplace and increasing our options,” Dave Busch, senior vice president, said in the press release. “Individuals are looking for lower-cost plans that provide appropriate coverage and benefits to meet their lifestyle and budgetary needs. By leveraging our relationships with the local health care community, we’re able to provide that in 2017.”

In total, BlueCross BlueShield is offering 15 distinct plans on and off the exchange, all of which feature an array of benefits and resources, including a $250 Wellness Card for gym memberships, massage therapy, health food store purchases and more; more than 50 free preventive services, including an annual checkup; Blue Discounts, featuring over 100 local and national offers; and new digital tools to compare treatment costs, find a doctor or hospital, view plan benefits and claims.

Again this year, the primary responsibility for accessing health insurance rests with the uninsured, who will face paying a tax penalty in 2017 if they don’t do so. The penalties for opting to not purchase health insurance are $695 per household adult and $375 per household child under 18, or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is greater.

BlueCross BlueShield encourages individuals to review their options and update their information each year given the evolving marketplace. Individuals may find lower-cost policies, better coverage or may be eligible for financial assistance depending on their income.

The press release stated that during the annual open enrollment period, from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, 2017, BlueCross BlueShield’s Benefit Consultants will be available at various locations across Western New York to meet with anyone who may want to review their health insurance options.

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