Blue Cross Overhaul Causes Debate Over Consumer Affect

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There are two sides to every debate and a new one has started with Senate Bills 61 and 62 passing through the State House, Thursday.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is now closer to becoming a non-profit mutual insurer. Simply put, the new structure would make BCBS like other insurance companies; paying state and local taxes, but facing less-strict regulations.

Now, the question is, how the overhaul will affect policy holders? Don Hazaert, Director of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare says the resulting competition could push up rates for companies across the board.

"In states where they haven't done meaningful rate review, we're seeing rates going up 20 percent or more every year," he said. "That's opposed to states that do meaningful rate review, where we're looking at mid-single digits."

Others say it's too soon to know what will happen.

Teri Morante, Senior Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation tells News 10 she doesn't think policy holders will notice a difference in coverage. Morante also says, the hope is that leveling the playing field will create more competition, ultimately driving down rates.

State Representative Andy Schor (D-Lansing), who voted in favor of the overhaul, agrees.

"We want to make sure there is competition among our insurance companies," he said. "Competition is supposed to help bring rates down, supposed to give people choices."

If rates try to go up, Schor says it won't be automatic.

"If Blue Cross wants a rate increase, just like anyone else, they have to submit their request to the Insurance Commissioner," he said.

Hazaert isn't sure it will be enough.

"The state does have an obligation to the consumer to make sure they're not being exploited or overcharged," said Hazaert.

Because two amendments were added to the bills during the House vote, the Senate has to approve the bills one more time, before they're signed by the Governor Snyder.

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