Michigan Attorney General Takes Aim at Blue Cross

A.G. Mike Cox 
Attorney Gen. Mike Cox said Thursday that this year’s legislative push to reform Michigan’s health care system must   retain the oversight on rate-setting — for all health providers — currently given to his office and the governor.

Cox fought an unsuccessful legislative attempt last year to lessen that oversight power over Blue Cross-Blue Shield, the state’s largest provider of health insurance and the insurer of last resort. But lawmakers ended the intense debate in December, saying the legislation was too complex to be jammed through in the final days of session.

Key in the upcoming debate will be the more than 300,000 Michigan residents who hold individual health care policies for which they pay. The number is growing, as more people are dropped from their employer-backed insurance. Blue Cross says it is at a competitive disadvantage with private insurers since state law requires Blue Cross to cover them, whereas private insurers can reject customers.

At a Lansing news conference, Cox, who has been highly critical of Blue Cross, said “I’m not here to throw bombs today,” adding that Blue Cross “has legitimate beefs in some respects.”

Cox sent a letter Thursday to all members of the Legislature urging them to consider 10 points in new Blue Cross legislation.

“Michigan’s health care system is in need of reforms which will protect consumers, first and foremost, while also keeping Blue Cross healthy,” Cox said.

Among his recommendations:

• Shorten from 12 to six months the time in which people with pre-existing medical conditions have to wait to get medical coverage. He said the move would allow those people to obtain more timely medical coverage.

• End “the crazy idea” that Blue Cross can charge more for coverage for individuals than the rate for small businesses.

• Impose a $100 million “license fee” on Blue Cross before it can buy an outside insurance company. The money collected from the fee would be used to create a fund to pay for subsidized catastrophic coverage for individuals and some small businesses.

• Require Blue Cross to become more transparent by filing timely reports on its spending for advertising, lobbying and travel expenses.

Read the full Detroit News article online.

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