Area employers should pay attention to Blue Cross acquisition

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Area employers should pay close attention to the acquisition of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and stay in “constant contact” with their health agents in the coming months, says Ronnell Nolan, the Baton Rouge-based president and CEO of Health Agents for America .

“Stay in the know as changes happen,” Nolan says. “I’m worried about this, absolutely. The news put a slight pit in my stomach. They said don’t anticipate changes—those words scare me. Anything can change. Plans could change.”

Nolan is especially concerned about losing the “family touch” of a locally owned Blue Cross Blue Shield organization. Moving ownership to larger conglomerate Elevance Health removes the “personal touch” Blue Cross Blue Shield was able to provide.

“Right now, I know everyone [at BCBS] and can call them and they can help me if I have a problem,” Nolan says. “In the future, we may not be able to go to the top like we can right now.”

Nolan, who oversees about 100 agents in Louisiana, plans to meet with BCBS and Anthem officials in the coming months as well as create a committee in her own organization to stay abreast with the transition. She also plans to meet with agents from Health Agents for America outside of Louisiana, in states where Elevance Health operates its other Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield brands, to see how the change served their markets.

Previously called Anthem, the company rebranded over the summer to Elevance Health but still operates Anthem-branded Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 14 states. While it’s unclear how the previous acquisitions impacted costs for employer-sponsored medical plans, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield programs in other states have been criticized for breaking state law or being slow to reimburse hospitals for care.

Georgia’s Insurance Commission’s Office fined Blue Cross Blue Shield $5 million last March—the largest regulatory fine in the office’s history—after receiving complaints from patients, physicians and hospitals.

“This examination uncovered a number of serious issues, including improper claims settlement practices, violations of the Prompt Pay Act, failure to reply to consumer complaints in a timely manner, inaccurate provider directories, and significant delays in loading provider contracts,” said John F .King, Georgia’s insurance and fire safety commissioner, in March when announcing the fine.

In Virginia, a hospital system filed suit against its Anthem partner in Octoberalleging it had tried to resolve $11.4 million worth of billing disputes with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield over a two-year period.

When reached for comment for this story, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield officials directed Daily Report to yesterday’s press release announcing the acquisition. Louisiana Department of Insurance officials did not respond to requests for comment before this afternoon’s deadline.

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