Thousand Oaks, CA–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–January 12, 2007–Blue Cross of California (BCC) has unveiled a comprehensive plan to help address the growing ranks of the uninsured. The plan is a blend of public and private initiatives aimed at ensuring universal coverage for children and providing new and more attractive options for the working uninsured.
An estimated 6.6 million Californians under the age of 65 do not have health insurance. Approximately 80 percent of these individuals have family incomes below 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and are unlikely to be able to afford private insurance.
“As the state’s largest insurer and the plan with the largest commitment to serving low-income and high-risk populations through our contracts in Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, and the Major Risk Medical Insurance Program, we are uniquely positioned to provide input into this discussion,” said BCC President, Brian A. Sassi.
To improve access to health care for children, the plan supports the expansion of state health care programs to cover more of the 763,000 children in California who went without coverage last year. Specifically, the plan urges the California State Legislature to expand their programs to cover children in families that earn up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). The plan also includes a call for improved outreach to enroll the majority of uninsured children—up to 70 percent—who are already eligible for public programs.
In addition to opening up public programs to more children, the plan also calls for the expansion of state health care programs to include parents in families that earn up to 200 percent of FPL and for childless adults who earn up to 100 percent of FPL. If adopted by all states, the proposed expansion of public programs, coupled with a successful outreach campaign, could provide coverage to 25 million people who are currently uninsured. To help pay for the changes to these programs, BCC will support an increase in tobacco taxes.
The plan also lays out a number of innovative public-private partnership opportunities that can be used to create a bridge to self-sufficiency for individuals who do not qualify for public programs. For instance, BCC supports the expansion of premium assistance programs for families that may need extra help paying for their private insurance, as well as state high risk pools to help provide coverage for those who have difficulty purchasing insurance in the individual market.
Beyond partnering with the federal and state governments, BCC is also committed to continue bringing innovative products to the marketplace that are tailored specifically to groups that have traditionally foregone health insurance. Products such as Tonik, designed for young Americans who are either unable or disinclined to purchase traditional health insurance, BeneFits, aimed at small businesses that have historically been incapable of offering coverage to its employees, and initiatives targeting the growing Hispanic population, which include a Web site “NuestroBien” and a suite of products tailored for Hispanics, have created new and affordable health care options and are currently in the process of being expanded to new markets.
“This year more than 380,000 previously uninsured individuals found health care security for the first time through one of our company’s individual products. We will continue to develop innovative and affordable products that appeal to individuals and small businesses and continue to help reduce the ranks of the uninsured,” said Jude Thompson, senior vice president of Individual Business. “But we recognize that additional measures are required to provide that same health security to all Americans.”
BCC also includes a financial commitment from its parent company’s charitable foundation of $30 million over the next three years to support community and state-based programs related to the company’s uninsured initiatives across the country that are helping to provide access to care.
The California initiatives include:
— A 3-year $1.6 million grant to the Institute for Local Government, which helps cities identify and enroll eligible children in no- and low-cost health care programs.
— $150,000 grant to the Dan Hernandez Youth Foundation, which uses exciting opportunities to go fishing to seek out uninsured children and get them enrolled in state sponsored programs.
— A $50,000 grant to the Children’s Partnership, which works to broaden the base of support among policymakers for expanding telemedicine services to needy children and to help telemedicine reach more children in the future.
— $25,000 to Community Health Improvement Partners, a program to improve appropriate utilization of healthcare through special multi-language medical reference manuals with the goal of helping ensure access to needed care for uninsured children in San Diego County.
About Blue Cross of California:
Blue Cross of California is a subsidiary of WellPoint, Inc. (NYSE: WLP). WellPoint’s mission is to improve the lives of the people it serves and the health of its communities. WellPoint, Inc. is the largest publicly traded commercial health benefits company in terms of membership in the United States. WellPoint, Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and serves its members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as Blue Cross Blue Shield in 10 New York City metropolitan counties and as Blue Cross or Blue Cross Blue Shield in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), Wisconsin; and through UniCare. Additional information about WellPoint is available at http://www.wellpoint.com.