6 insurers offer 165 health plans for Illinois exchange review

Chicago Tribune reports:

“Six insurance carriers submitted 165 health insurance plans to be offered on the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace, the online exchange where individuals and small businesses in October can begin buying coverage for 2014, state officials said Wednesday.

The state didn’t say which insurers submitted plans, which must be vetted by state and federal regulators to ensure they comply with new rules.

To help offset the cost of buying health insurance, about 957,000 Illinois residents will be eligible for a new federal income tax credit, a key component of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul that requires individuals to carry health insurance or pay a penalty. To receive the point-of-sale credits, consumers must buy health insurance through the exchange.

State officials expect about 486,000 Illinoisans to buy health coverage for 2014 through the exchange, which will be operated by a state and federal government partnership in its first year. The state projects that as many as 1.3 million residents will buy an exchange-based product by 2017.

“I am very encouraged that we have seen multiple plans being offered on the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement. “This means that people and families that have been struggling to obtain health coverage will have many options to choose from when we begin the open enrollment process.”

The number of plans submitted is short of the amount the state estimated earlier this year. Officials said they expected that more than 250 insurance products could be offered on the exchange.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the state’s largest insurer in terms of market share, and Land of Lincoln Health, one of 24 new health insurance cooperatives approved by the federal government, submitted several plans, the companies said.

A spokesman said Wednesday that Blue Cross submitted 35 plans across several coverage levels in the individual and small group market. Land of Lincoln, which got the go-ahead from Illinois regulators this week to sell health plans in 2014, said it submitted “a number of plans.”

Some of the nation’s largest insurers, including Aetna Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc., declined to say whether they submitted plans in Illinois.

Aetna and Humana executives said this week the companies expect to participate in exchanges in 14 states, which they didn’t name.

UnitedHealth, meanwhile, has said it was considering submitting exchange-based plans for consideration in 10 to 25 states.

Centene Corp., the insurer that operates IlliniCare, a coverage plan for the state’s Medicaid program, also would not say whether it submitted plans for the exchange.

All plans in the Illinois insurance exchange must provide a baseline level of coverage, dubbed essential health benefits. Mandated items and services fall under 10 categories, including ambulatory care, prescription drugs and laboratory services.

Plans also must adhere to stringent financial boundaries set for the actuarial value of each product, or the percentage of the cost of benefits they will pay. Those requirements limit the creativity of insurers to offer differentiated products, which the government hopes will spur more competition on cost.

The plans submitted to the state include financial details, like monthly premiums, deductibles and copayment amounts, though neither the insurers nor the state would reveal those figures. Illinois expects to complete its review of the plans by late July.”