Blue Cross Blue Shield to offer individual coverage for Knoxville-area consumers

WATE 6 On Your Side staff - KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Blue Cross Blue Shield announced to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance its intent to offer individual coverage for consumers in the area of Knoxville.

Coverage will be offered on the individual Marketplace in 2018.

The insurance company says its performance in 2017 improved due to a better claim experience and a more sustainable rate structure.

"I want to stress that our openness to this action is in no way a political decision. Nor is it a reflection of our perspective on the stability of individual Marketplace overall," said President and CEO JD Hickey. "In fact, we can't justify doing so based solely on current political uncertainty, but instead we believe it is an extension of our mission to serve our fellow Tennesseans, especially those who do not have other options for coverage."

Hickey continues to say that due to potential negative effects of federal legislation or regulatory changes the company believes it is necessary to price-in risks until stability can be achieved. Risks could include the elimination of Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies, removal of individual mandates and collecting health insurer tax.

Click here to read Blue Cross' letter

Some people in the Knoxville area that are covered by the Affordable Care Act were relieved to hear the news. Melissa Nance is a cancer survivor and she does not get insurance through her employer. She was not sure what she was going to do when Humana pulled out of the exchange next year. Nance was happy to hear she will have insurance in 2018.

"I feel like I have won the lottery," said Nance.

She said her type of cancer will come back so she needs to have insurance when that time comes. Tennessee State Sen. Dr. Richard Briggs, was happy to hear Blue Cross Blue Shield's announcement.

"We need to have them come into the market place so it's affordable to the average citizen," said Senator Briggs.

One of his concerns was whether the premiums will be affordable. That was also a concern of Nance.

"I think all Tennessee families are worried about the high cost of insurance so we will just have to wait and see what those costs end up being," Nance said.

Sen. Briggs said the premiums will ultimately depend on how the federal government manages subsidies. A repeal-replace vote cleared the House. Now, Senator Briggs and Nance are looking to see what the Senate does. Briggs thought the Senate version may be entirely different than the one passed in the House.

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