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Press Release

IBC Introduces Two New Guaranteed-Issue Individual Personal Choice Options

Plans replace three 20-year-old plans and include pre-tax savings account option

Philadelphia, PA - January 14, 2010 - Independence Blue Cross (IBC) announced that it is introducing in March two new guaranteed-issue Personal Choice health plans for individuals that will replace three older Personal Choice guaranteed-issue options.

IBC is the only company in the region that offers individuals guaranteed-issue health insurance, plans that accept all who apply, regardless of their health.

The new plans, which provide choice and flexibility in product design and costs, are:

  • Personal Choice Basic. A preferred provider organization (PPO) plan that allows members to receive care from any providers without a referral in-network or out-of-network.
  • Personal Choice Value HSA. An HSA-qualified PPO plan, which means the plan may be combined with a health savings account, a feature that has been growing in popularity in the Philadelphia region for the past few years. The Value plan offers a more modest premium, a higher deductible, and allows members to contribute funds to the HSA that are not subject to federal tax. That money can be used to pay for medical expenses or to save to supplement retirement savings.

IBC's PPO plans include Healthy Lifestyle programs, which provide tools, resources, and financial incentives to help members stay healthy, lose weight, or stop smoking. These PPO plans also include ConnectionsSM Health Management Programs, which help members manage their chronic conditions. These individual plans are for people who are not covered by an employer's health plan. For more information on these plans, visit www.ibx.com/health_plans/individual/ppo.html.

"We are committed to continuing to offer these guaranteed-issue plans so that we can provide coverage to anyone, regardless of their health," said Scott Post, vice president of Marketing Administration at IBC. "However, to do that, we needed to modernize plan designs that were 20 years old, and adjust the rates to slow the significant losses we've incurred in these plans over that time."

Rising medical costs, such as the cost for drugs or new technologies, are the primary reason why health insurance premiums increase, and the Philadelphia region is one of the most expensive in the nation for health care. The population is older, medical care in the region is more expensive, and people use more health services.

"When medical costs go up, health insurance premiums rise too," said Post, explaining that the cost of the medical care members of these plans receive has been far exceeding the premiums they paid to IBC. "No business can operate that way forever. We do everything we can to avoid raising rates, but changing these plans' design and rates was necessary to continue to offer these important guarantee issue products and maintain our financial soundness."

In addition to the two new Personal Choice guarantee issue individual plans, IBC offers other guaranteed-issue plans, known as Traditional Blue Cross, Blue Shield or Major Medical. IBC also offers adultBasic and CHIP, which are state-run plans, as well as medically underwritten individual Keystone HMO options. Members and prospective customers are encouraged to explore plan options at www.ibx.com/health_plans and, for help with any questions, call 1-800 ASK-BLUE to speak with a representative.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department approved the two new individual guarantee issue plans' benefits design and rates in November. IBC sent letters in December to the 27,000 members currently enrolled in the three discontinued individual PPO plans, notifying them about the change and asking them to select one of the two new options by January 15. Members who don't select a new plan by then will automatically be enrolled in the Personal Choice Value HSA plan so that there is no lapse in coverage. However, they have a grace period that gives them until May 31 to change plans, if they wish.

Some of these members will see an increase and others a decrease in their monthly premiums when they switch from the discontinued Personal Choice plans to the one of the new plans. The new rate will depend on the plan a member chooses, the member's age, and whether a spouse or children will also be covered. Existing members can find more information at www.ibx.com/planchange.

About Independence Blue Cross

Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in southeastern Pennsylvania. Nationwide, Independence Blue Cross and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.3 million people. For more than 70 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high-quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross's HMO and PPO health care plans have consistently received the highest ratings from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

Independence Blue Cross supports comprehensive health care reform that would extend coverage to all Americans, reduce costs, and improve quality. We also advocate reform that builds on the current employer-based system that currently serves 170 million Americans. Learn more about our views on health care legislation now working its way through Congress by visiting our website at www.ibx.com/about_ibc/health_care_reform.

Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.