Tennessee's insurance commissioner breathed a public, cautious sigh of relief on Tuesday after BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee agreed to offer insurance on the federal marketplace next year in the Knoxville region.
For the past few months, Republican lawmakers have pointed to the Knoxville area as an example of a place where Obamacare is in a downward spiral. The only insurer on the federal marketplace right now, Humana, is pulling out for 2018, so the fear was that the 40,000 people currently covered by Humana would be left without an Obamacare option.
But Tennessee insurance commissioner Julie McPeak says BlueCross BlueShield's decision to fill the gap abates that fear, at least slightly.
"This is as optimistic as I have been for 2018," she says. "Having an insurer step forward and say, 'I'm going to have a few caveats but right now it looks like we will be willing to cover the Knoxville market,' is a huge win for the consumers in that area."
In a letter sent to her by BlueCross's CEO, he says they reserve the right to change their mind "in the event of any post-bid changes that destabilize the market and affect our risk exposure," like new healthcare regulations.
While McPeak is lauding BlueCross as a champion of consumers now, the company was criticized last year for increasing their premiums by more than 60 percent and then pulling out of several regions around the state for 2017 — including Knoxville.