After many months of lobbying and filing application documents, Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance has chosen not to be a part of Oregon’s state health care insurance exchange. The reasons for the company’s apparent reversal of plans, and its implications for Idaho’s state insurance exchange, remain unclear.
“They chose not to file any insurance plans for review by our exchange,” Lisa Morawski, spokesperson for the Cover Oregon insurance exchange told IdahoReporter.com. “The deadline was April 30, and we received nothing from them.”
News of the company’s decision first emerged in a May 3 article in a health care industry publication. “The Lund Report.” According to that article, Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield spent more than $277,000 in 2012 lobbying Oregon elected officials in favor of establishing the insurance exchange.
Noting that “onlookers came away stunned,” the article noted that “Regence had been at the table all along, testifying in favor of the exchange during legislative hearings and had staff attending work sessions organized by Cover Oregon. Its top executives, including Mark Ganz, Jim Walton and Don Antonucci, had appeared in numerous public speaking forums touting their support, giving all indications they’d be a strong player in the exchange. The Oregon Insurance Division had even scheduled a hearing in early June to review Regence’s plans.”
Morawski confirmed for IdahoReporter.com that in 2012 Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield had given the appearance that it would be participating in the insurance exchange. “They filed preliminary letters of intent and all the appropriate applications towards the end of last year,” she noted.
When asked if the company’s choice to abandon the insurance exchange was a surprise, she noted that “I cannot speak for our director. All I can tell you is that we knew that some companies would choose not to participate.”
“The Lund Report” offered some analysis of the company’s actions, stating that “Regence is just trying to game the system and play politics in the hopes that the exchange goes down; it’s quite obvious that they’re setting themselves up to compete by not participating in the exchange and not gamble on a risky population that they can’t predict.”
Regence Blue Shield of Idaho has played a significant role in the establishment of Idaho’s insurance exchange. The company’s president, Scott Kreiling, was appointed to Gov. Butch Otter’s insurance exchange task force last year, and voted in favor of recommending that the exchange be created. After the Legislature approved Otter’s plans for a health insurance exchange, Otter appointed Kreiling to serve again, this time on the exchange’s board of directors.
IdahoReporter.com contacted Kreiling’s office seeking comment on “The Lund Report” story as well as his company’s plans for participation in the Idaho exchange. Calls and email were not returned, nor were calls to the company’s public affairs offices in Oregon.