Tucson firm joins marketplace under Affordable Care Act

2013-10-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-01T15:38:46Z Tucson firm joins marketplace under Affordable Care ActBy Stephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A Tucson-based insurance company is diversifying from covering only government plans and will be part of the Arizona marketplace created under President Obama’s health law.

The nonprofit University of Arizona Health Plan — University Healthcare Marketplace is expected to be the only Tucson-based insurance company on the Arizona marketplace, which will begin enrollment today as part of the new health law called the Affordable Care Act.

The Tucson company will offer six insurance plans on the marketplace, company officials say.

The company has historically covered only people on Medicaid and Medicare, but as part of a growth plan is moving into the commercial market to sell private, individual plans.

The marketplaces are often referred to as health-care exchanges. Arizona’s marketplace is federally operated and a place where people may purchase government-regulated insurance and also be eligible for federal subsidies to offset expenses.

SEVERAL COMPANIES
TO SELL IN Arizona

According to White House estimates, about 106 different plans sold by several companies will be available for purchase on Arizona’s marketplace, making it one of the most competitive marketplaces in the country.

People may access Arizona’s marketplace via www.healthcare.gov or by the toll-free number 1-800-318-2596, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week in more than 100 languages.

Federal officials on Monday refused to release a list of insurance companies on the Arizona exchange, saying that the information won’t be available until today when the exchange is officially up and running.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday released a report that estimated the lowest-cost plan premium for an Arizona 27-year-old buying insurance on the marketplace is $141, or $120 per month after tax credits if that person has an income of $25,000.

Midrange plan premiums for an Arizona family of four are $600, or $282 per month if that family has an income of $50,000, the report says.

Company TO SELL PRIVATE HMO PLANS

The Tucson insurance company used to be known as the University Physicians Health plan and has long offered coverage through Medicaid and the “dual eligibles” who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare. It currently covers about 74,000 people in those categories.

The company also has a management agreement with the Maricopa Integrated Health Systems to manage 46,000 members of the Maricopa Health Plan, which covers people enrolled in Medicaid.

The company decided to expand its payer mix locally because it no longer makes sense to be solely reliant on government reimbursements, which have been going down, said Karen E. Leonard, vice president of business development for the University of Arizona Health Plans. Leonard said expansion into the marketplace is part of the company’s plan to grow and diversify.

In order to expand into the commercial market, officials with the University of Arizona Health Plan — University Healthcare Marketplace had to apply as a new insurance company with the Arizona Department of Insurance.

The company will sell private HMO plans both on and off the marketplace, said Rick Slaughter, who is vice president for commercial and Medicare programs.

Leonard said the company hopes to enroll about 6,000 people via the individual marketplace in 2014, and expects to bring that number close to 20,000 by 2017.

At this point, officials with the Tucson plan do not anticipate selling plans through the small-business marketplace, often known as SHOP — the Small Business Health Options Program, where employers with 50 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees may purchase coverage for their business.

Premiums with the University of Arizona Health Plan will depend on variables like a person’s age, location, whether or not the person smokes, and family size.

TUCSON OUTREACH PLANNED

While the federal government is publicizing the six-month enrollment period, the Tucson-based company is doing its own marketing outreach.

Leonard said since the company has a Medicaid plan, if people become ineligible for Medicaid because of a spike in income they can still stay with the same insurer. The company is targeting uninsured families and the so-called “young invincibles” who are healthy young adults.

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild is scheduled to make an announcement about local insurance options through the marketplace at 11 a.m. today along with David Sayen, administrator for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services region that includes Arizona; Katharine Weiss of the national group Enroll America; Jane Bakos, executive director of the local St. Elizabeth’s Health Center; and Chief Deputy Pima County Attorney Amelia Cramer.

While the marketplace opens today, the enrollment period to purchase federally subsidized insurance is six months. Experts advise researching plans and not purchasing right away. As long as plans are purchased by Dec. 15, coverage will begin Jan. 1.

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at sinnes@azstarnet.com or 573-4134.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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