Blue Cross Blue Shield

Screen shot from healthcare.gov

Thousands of Michiganders are expected to be among the final crush of Americans trying to sign up for health insurance by Monday Obamacare deadline.

After Monday, people without health insurance coverage may face a penalty on their federal taxes.

Andy Hetzel is a spokesman for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan.      He says the state’s largest insurer has been getting 25,000 calls a week from people looking for help getting health care coverage.

“We’re seeing significant volumes of people reaching out to us now,” says Hetzel, “The people who are reaching out to us are a fraction of the marketplace.”

Hetzel says walking people through the sign-up, including assessing their eligibility for a federal subsidy to help pay their insurance premium, can take a while.   

Hetzel notes that many Michiganders will have the option of signing up for expanded Medicaid coverage starting next month.

Michigan’s law barring insurance companies from including abortion coverage in basic policies takes effect this week. 

7 insurance companies, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, will offer an additional rider.

David Waymire is a spokesman for the Michigan Association of Health Plans.      He says most Michiganders get their insurance from self-insured company health plans which are not covered by the law.   

“So there’s really a small number of people that will ever be affected by this law at this point,” says Waymire.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Obama Administration says Michiganders are signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at a faster pace than expected. But time is running out.

Michiganders have until the end of March to sign up for health insurance or face a federal tax penalty.

The Obama administration says through the end of January, about 112,000 Michiganders have picked insurance plans using the federal health care website.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is proud of the substantial changes he and lawmakers made to Michigan's health care landscape in 2013.

Almost a half-million low-income adults will qualify for government health insurance through an expansion of Medicaid. An overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield is creating a nearly $1.6 billion health endowment fund.

More low-income children are eligible for dental coverage.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michiganders at risk of losing their health insurance because of Obamacare may be getting a reprieve.

It’s estimated that more than 200,000 policies in Michigan could be at risk of being canceled because the policies don’t meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act.

After a public outcry, President Obama asked the states and insurance companies to keep those policies in effect for another year. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal judge has ruled that Blue Cross must pay hundreds of Michigan families who were denied coverage for behavioral therapy for children with autism.

Blue Cross contends the therapy is experimental, but doctors disagree.

The ruling may cost Blue Cross about five million dollars.

Shawn Wilson / wikimedia

This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss what's ahead for Kevyn Orr, the soon to be emergency manager for Detroit. They also talk about how some universities might face cuts after renegotiating labor contracts before the right to work law goes into effect later this month, and how the Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaul will affect the majority of Michiganders in the state.

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Governor Snyder signs Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaul

"Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation overhauling Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The bills let the state's largest health insurer transform into a customer-owned nonprofit and ends its tax-exempt status. The Republican governor signed the legislation Monday at a meeting of the company's board of directors in Detroit," the Associated Press reports.

Detroit EM accused of unpaid taxes

"Governor Rick Snyder is standing by his pick for Detroit’s emergency manager - despite some criticism over unpaid taxes. The Detroit News reported over the weekend that Kevyn Orr had two tax liens against his Maryland home. Orr says he has since paid the taxes," Jake Neher reports.

Flint postpones decision to get water from Lake Huron

"The Flint city council has delayed a decision on whether to take part in a quarter billion dollar project to pipe water from Lake Huron for the city’s drinking water. Council members are concerned the city will end up paying too much.   There is also concern that whatever decision they make could be overruled by Flint’s emergency financial manager," Steve Carmody reports.

Blue Cross Blue Shield would undergo major changes under proposed legislation.
Wikipedia

Today, things change for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

After Governor Rick Snyder signed the law this afternoon, the state's largest health insurer will no longer be a 'benevolent trust' owned by the people of Michigan.

Instead, it will transition into a customer-owned, nonprofit, mutual insurance company.

As such, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will be able to operate without as much state oversight.

Blue Cross Blue Shield building on Lafayette in Detroit.
Mikerussell / wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation overhauling Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The bills let the state's largest health insurer transform into a customer-owned nonprofit and ends its tax-exempt status. The Republican governor signed the legislation Monday at a meeting of the company's board of directors in Detroit.

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Snyder signs Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaul today

"Governor Snyder is scheduled to sign a law today that will transform Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan into a customer-owned non-profit insurance company," Steve Carmody reports

Michigan to unveil plan on autism services today

"The state Department of Community Health will roll out a plan today to address the needs of children and adults with autism. It will include early identification of children with autism and helping adults with autism live independently," Rick Pluta reports.

Knives on airplanes

"Knives are prohibited in Michigan airports, but beginning next month the Transportation Security Administration says agents will still allow them through security checkpoints at the state's airports anyway. Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette's office says the ban on knives will remain in effect despite the TSA changes," the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder is scheduled to sign a law tomorrow that will transform Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan into a customer-owned non-profit insurance company.

Supporters say the change will make Michigan’s health insurance market more competitive.

But the AARP and other opponents complain the change will eventually cost nearly 200 thousand Michigan senior citizens the Medi-gap coverage they need.

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Governor Snyder to make an announcement on Detroit's financial emergency

"Governor Rick Snyder is expected to announce today that he agrees with a review team’s determination that Detroit is in a financial crisis with no plan to solve it. That would set the stage for the governor to name an emergency manager to run the city later in March. There’s no official word on what the governor plans to do, but he has said the condition of Detroit’s finances is unacceptable," Rick Pluta reports.

Health care exchange and Blue Cross Blue Shield bills move forward

Michigan is moving forward on the Affordable Care Act. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"In a 78-31 vote, 29 Republicans joined with 49 Democrats [Thursday] to accept $30.6 million in federal money to set up a Web-based health care exchange where Michigan residents can easily go and investigate, and ultimately buy, the health insurance mandated under the act. The House also overwhelmingly passed a pair of bills that transforms Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan from a tax-exempt nonprofit into a nonprofit mutual insurer."

Lawmakers consider ballot proposal to raise sales tax to fund Michigan roads

Lawmakers have come up with a new idea to fix Michigan's roads. As the Detroit News reports,

"Republican lawmakers could take the first step next week toward financing Gov. Rick Snyder's $1.2 billion road improvements by trying to place a 1-cent sales tax increase on the May ballot."

Blue Cross Blue Shield building on Lafayette in Detroit.
Mikerussell / wikimedia commons

The Michigan House passed SB 61 and SB 62 today on a 92-18 vote. The bills go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote, and then they'll head to Gov. Snyder's desk for his signature.

The bills are aimed at overhauling how Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan operates in the state.

Similar bills were attempted in the last session of the legislature, but they contained controversial abortion language. The language required an optional rider for abortion coverage.

Gov. Snyder vetoed those bills.

These new bills don't have the abortion language.

More on the changes from MLive's Melissa Anders:

Kate Sumbler / Flickr

This week in review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the second attempt to overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the great potential of Detroit getting an emergency manager, and debates over what control the Detroit Public School board has when they are under the control of an emergency financial manager.

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Blue Cross changes approved without abortion provision

"It looks unlikely state House Republicans will try to add controversial abortion language to a proposed overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Lawmakers passed the bill out of committee yesterday without a provision that would limit insurers’ ability to cover elective abortions," Jake Neher reports.

Bill would end some Michigan alcohol regulations

"Legislation in the Michigan Senate would overhaul regulation of the state's alcohol industry. The bill would eliminate outdated regulations and increase the size of the industry. One change would make it harder to prosecute those who sell alcohol to someone who is intoxicated," the Associated Press reports.

Governor Snyder says he won't decide on an EM for Detroit for at least another week

"Governor Snyder says he won’t decide whether to put an emergency manager in Detroit for 'at least another week.' But he warned Thursday that the city’s financial situation is 'dire.'", Sarah Cwiek reports.

Blue Cross Blue Shield would undergo major changes under proposed legislation.
Wikipedia

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A state House committee has approved bills to overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, leaving out anti-abortion provisions that torpedoed an earlier effort to change the status of the state's largest insurer.

Bills headed to the House don't include language to prevent insurers and businesses from providing elective abortion coverage in employee health plans.

Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a similar bill less than two months ago over last-minute abortion provisions.

Some lawmakers discussed restoring abortion restrictions.

The proposed overhaul seeks to modernize but not sell Blue Cross, which is governed by a separate law from other insurers and waits longer for its rate changes to be reviewed.

Before Thursday's 11-0 vote, senior advocates testified about concerns that costs will rise because of the legislation. Three Democrats abstained from voting.

sentate.michigan.gov/gop

State lawmakers have re-introduced legislation that would limit the ability of insurance companies to cover abortions.

The measure would only allow insurers to cover elective abortions through optional rider plans.

Republican state Senator Mark Jansen says many people do not want that kind of coverage automatically included in their plans.

“If I’m an employee, and this is the big issue nationally, why should I be paying for something that seems to be something that many of us morally disagree with?”

The measure was included in legislation last year that sought to overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Governor Rick Snyder vetoed that bill because he thought the abortion language went too far. He said it’s not the state’s job to decide what kinds of plans insurance companies can offer.

The Blue Cross legislation has also been reintroduced without the abortion language. It passed unanimously in the state Senate last week.

Blue Cross Blue Shield would undergo major changes under proposed legislation.
Wikipedia

The state Senate Thursday unanimously passed an overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The measure was unexpectedly vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder last month because it included some controversial abortion language. Lawmakers recently reintroduced the legislation without the abortion measure.    

State Senator Joe Hune said he expects it to take longer for the bills to get through the House.

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Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaul reintroduced without abortion language

Lawmakers have reintroduced a proposed overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Lansing State Journal reports.

"This time it is without the "objectionable language" on abortion that led Gov. Rick Snyder to veto the first package that cleared the Legislature last month. Two Senate bills would convert Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan into a nonprofit mutual insurance company."

Michigan might ignore federal gun control laws

"Michigan may join a small group of states that say they plan to ignore some federal gun control laws. A bill before the state legislature would exempt any guns or ammunition made, sold and kept in Michigan from any new federal regulations," Steve Carmody reports.

Michigan gets $30 million grant to help shop for health coverage

"The federal government is giving Michigan a $30 million  grant to help set up its health care insurance exchange. The exchange is mandated under the Affordable Care Act. It'll help people research and buy health coverage," Rina Miller reports.

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Blue Cross Blue Shield encourages legislation in new session

"The state's largest health insurer is back encouraging action on legislation enabling its restructuring after Governor Rick Snyder vetoed it. Snyder balked last month at the bill he proposed because of language added by lawmakers preventing insurers and businesses from providing elective abortion coverage in employee health plans. Both hope the legislation without the abortion provisions will be passed and signed into law early in the legislative session that begins Wednesday," The Associated Press reports.

Detroit search for police chief stalled

"The search for a new Detroit police chief appears to have stalled. Former Detroit police chief Ralph Godbee hastily retired amidst a sex scandal in October. Under the new city charter, the Board of Police Commissioners must first select search firms to vet potential candidates for chief. Police Commissioner Jerome Warfield says they’ve done that, and sent them to the mayor's office. But they’ve gotten conflicting signals from the administration about whether there’s money to go forward. A Bing spokesman declined comment on the matter for now," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Red Wings back on ice after lockout

"Peace came to the NHL over the weekend, and now pieces need to fall in place for the Red Wings. They will start a lockout-shortened, likely 50-game season within two weeks and training camp within a week after the league and the NHL Players' Association agreed in principle early Sunday morning to a 10-year deal after a 16-hour negotiation session that ended a 113-day lockout. The new collective bargaining agreement still has to be ratified, but from management on down, the overwhelming response was one of relief," The Detroit Free Press reports.

Changes could make Blue Cross Blue Shield a nonprofit mutual

Dec 13, 2012
echealthinsurance.com

The measure to make Blue Cross Blue Shield a nonprofit mutual is under way.

Peter Luke of Bridge Magazine spoke with Cyndy about health care changes in Michigan.

According to Luke, the reform would put Blue Cross into the hands of policy holders.

“They [Blue Cross Blue Shield] have 70 percent of the market share and in some forms of business, critical to this legislation, they have almost 100 percent. Most of their role is in administrative capacity. For 70 years they’ve been a benevolent trust established by the State of Michigan to be the insurer of last-resort and that was codified in 1980. What this law does is turn them into a nonprofit mutual so they’re no longer owned by the people of Michigan but by the policy holders.”

Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio

These are some wild days in Michigan.

With thousands of protestors at the capitol, Right to Work has become the 1200 lb gorilla in Lansing: it makes the 600 lb gorillas look small.

In other words, with time still left in this lame duck session,  Michiganders could wind up with a whole slew of controversial new laws next year.

Here’s a short list:

If you were writing a novel about politics, you couldn’t make this up. Last month a Democratic President was re-elected, easily carrying Michigan by almost half a million votes.

The same day, the state’s voters reelected a liberal Democratic Senator by almost a million votes, and Democrats gained seats in the legislature. Exactly one month to the day later, this same state passed laws destroying the union shop, and making Michigan a right to work state.

Did I think I would ever see this in my lifetime? Absolutely not. But then, I never counted on a black president, General Motors going bankrupt, or Pontiac going out of business.

We live in momentous times. And in the Michigan legislature, last week was a time of lawmaking at breathtaking speed. If there has ever been a lame-duck session anything like this one, I certainly don’t know about it.

Kevin H. / flickr

Right-to-work may have been the star of the legislative circus that took place at the Capitol yesterday, but it was just one of many passed by the House and Senate.

Here is a recap of some other bills that you might have missed:

The Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act

The bill, passed by the state Senate yesterday, would allow health care providers, facilities, or insurers to deny care base on religious, moral, or ethical objections.

photo by Anna Strumillo Phuket - Thailand / www.fotopedia.com

A lot of Michigan seniors are not happy with some of the proposed changes to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The legislature is overhauling Blue Cross, changing it from a charity to a state-tax paying business.

But some seniors say it could make their healthcare bills skyrocket, or even take away some of their health insurance plans all together.

Now, if your brain is starting to hurt at this point, don’t worry:  contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand this healthcare change stuff. Promise.

A state House panel has delayed a hearing, on a proposal to end the tax exempt status of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The legislation would transform the charitable trust into a customer-owned non-profit.

The House Insurance Committee Chairman says lawmakers need to work out concerns with parts of the legislation.

The committee is expected to reconvene this week.

Supporters say the proposal would modernize Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and allow it to be taxed and regulated as its competitors are.

Critics argue that it would reduce oversight of a company that controls 70 percent of the market.

The legislation passed the state Senate in October.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A Republican state lawmaker says Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan should pay $500 for every Michigan resident as part of legislation that would convert the company from a charitable trust of the state to a customer-owned nonprofit .

Rep. Tom McMillin proposed Friday that the state's dominant insurer be required to transfer $5 billion to Michigan's 10 million residents as payment for the conversion.

Blue Cross says the conversion would help it better compete under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

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Schuette says Blues overhaul not enough to protect seniors

State Attourney General says the overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan needs more safeguards in order to protect seniors. The Detroit news reports,

Under legislation sought by Gov. Rick Snyder, the Blues could dramatically reduce its $200 million annual subsidy of the Medicare supplemental insurance by 2016, when a rate freeze Schuette negotiated expires.

After that, the Blues would contribute as little as $15 million annually to a new state-run nonprofit health care foundation for Medigap coverage made available only to Medicare recipients who prove a financial need, Schuette said.

Blue Cross says 70 percent of the 210,000 seniors receiving Medigap insurance would fail a means test to show a financial need for the subsidy, Michigan Insurance Commissioner Kevin Clinton said.

Benton Harbor considers eliminating police force to cut costs

"Two weeks after voters in Benton Harbor rejected a millage renewal, the city’s emergency financial manager is laying out a few grim options. Joe Harris told reporters Monday afternoon one option is eliminating the police force. The millage would’ve raised a little more than a million dollars this year alone. That represents twenty-percent of Benton Harbor’s yearly revenue," Lindsey Smith reports.

University of Maryland added to "Big Ten"

"The Big Ten athletic conference added the University of Maryland to its roster Monday. Rutgers University is expected to announce its plans to join the conference today. That will bring the total number of schools in the conference to 14, and is likely to mean big increases in revenues for the universities as well as the conference," Chris Zollars reports.

Bill Schuette for Michigan Attorney General

Michigan’s attorney general says state lawmakers must add more safeguards for seniors to legislation that would overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Bill Schuette testified Monday before the House Insurance Committee.

Schuette said bills passed last month by the Senate did not do enough to make sure Blue Cross continues to offer Medigap plans to seniors.

The program covers costs that Medicare doesn’t.

The attorney general said the proposal would drastically cut funding for Medigap, and only requires Blue Cross to offer it through 2016.

“I think the last thing we want is to have skyrocketing Medigap rates, or Medigap disappear altogether,” Schuette said.

Blue Cross officials say the measure gives seniors plenty of time to switch to more comprehensive and affordable plans.

The legislation would end Blue Cross’ tax exempt status. In return, the state would have less oversight of the Michigan’s largest health insurer.

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