BCBS to launch retiree health insurance exchange

April 27, 2015

Blue Cross and Blue Shield will launch a health insurance exchange this summer that will support employers’ efforts to help retirees transition from group health benefits to individual Medicare coverage that starts Jan. 1, 2016.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) will launch a health insurance exchange this summer that will support employers’ efforts to help retirees transition from group health benefits to individual Medicare coverage that starts Jan. 1, 2016.

BCBS Marketplace will offer Blue Cross and Blue Shield Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap), Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage in more than 45 states and Washington, D.C.

The Blues plans currently provide many employers with retiree health insurance. The emergence of private health insurance exchanges, including Towers Watson’s OneExchange and Aon Retiree Health Exchange, coupled with a shift to defined contribution, have become a distribution channel for transitioning retirees to individual Medicare plans. BCBS is creating this exchange to establish its own exchange, providing their groups and members with a seamless transition to individual Blue plans.

Brown“We have already seen many health plans establish their own proprietary exchanges in the retiree and active segments, including Aetna, and believe we will continue to see carriers create competitive offerings to those offered by third parties,” says Scott Brown, who leads Accenture’s offering for private health insurance exchanges.

This move also may shift the competitive dynamics, according to Brown.

“As the BCBS Marketplace gains traction nationally, so will its ability to compete directly with the top retiree exchanges and retain more membership as groups make the move for their retirees,” he says. “For the industry, this provides another channel to drive further growth in the rapidly expanding retiree private health insurance market.”

It will be interesting to watch to what extent, if at all, this evolves in the long-term, according to Brown.

“It definitely won’t happen overnight, but it’s clear that the competitive dynamics will shift,” he says.

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“BCBS Marketplace will provide an intuitive and personalized shopping experience to help retirees purchase the Medicare coverage that best meets their needs,” said Maureen Sullivan, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), in a press release. “This exchange will ensure that more retirees continue to benefit from the security and stability of Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance.”

Shoppers will receive online and call center support to help simplify the transition further. The exchange also will offer retirees additional BCBS products such as vision, dental and life insurance in markets where they are available.

BCBSA contracted with Connecture, a provider of web-based shopping and enrollment systems for consumers of commercial and Medicare health insurance plans.