House committee debates Blue Cross changes
Attorney General Bill Schuette testified about proposed legislative changes to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, or BCBSM, in front of the House Insurance Committee Monday morning, stressing the importance of keeping continued coverage for “Michigan’s most vulnerable” citizens and calling for careful review of the proposed legislation before any action.
The proposed changes are part of plans for a new insurance marketplace required under the Affordable Care Act, which could significantly change how students and recent graduates purchase coverage as they look to start a career.
But some representatives questioned the legislation’s ability to account for existing insurance policies held by BCBSM, and spoke only in hypothetical terms about how the change could affect Michigan citizens, including students.
Schuette, who fielded questions from the committee for about an hour Monday morning, raised concerns with ensuring current insurance policies remain in place if the conversion is approved, as well as protecting citizens who currently are insured by BCBSM, the state’s current insurer of last resort.
“We need to make sure that we work out there are no hiccups,” Schuette said during the hearing.
Regardless of what happens with BCBSM under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, College of Osteopathic Medicine Student Government Association President Kegan Rummel said the upcoming changes to health care likely will affect students in some way.
But Rummel said many people remain uneducated about the issues, including students.
“Since the changes have not taken effect, it is hard to predict exactly what will happen over the coming years as the changes are implemented,” he said.
Republican and Democratic committee members both showed hesitance about rushing into policy changes, speaking in hypothetical terms about how the transformed company might be run if approved.
House Insurance Committee Chairman Peter Lund, R-Shelby Township, said the proposed conversion is a new type of insurance entity in Michigan and that the board’s governance structure would require a vote by policyholders before any policy changes could occur.
Gov. Rick Snyder proposed the plan in September, asserting the conversion would open up more insurance options for Michigan citizens.
The plan must be approved by the state Legislature, Schuette and the BCBSM board of directors.
BCBSM Vice President of Corporate Communications Andy Hetzel said in a previous interview he hopes the changes will continue through the Legislature, although the board of directors will have the ultimate say.
The state Senate passed the BCBSM bills last month. Lund said the insurance committee would resume BCBSM discussions next week when the full Legislature is back in session.
Schuette said other states have taken similar actions in changing their health insurance policies, but the proposed BCBSM changes are unique to Michigan.
“This is a new frontier in terms of these conversions,” he said. “We want to make sure this is done right.”