Kansas City, here I come

Now here’s something you won’t often hear from me.

Good job, Blue Cross and Blue Shield!

No, I’m not talking about BC/BS of South Carolina. It’s BC/BS of Kansas City deserving the accolade.

The health insurance industry was the loudest opponent of national health care reform but once it passed BC/BS of Kansas City decided to use the reform to its advantage.

I have been telling every insurance agent I have run into since the legislation passed in March that they ought to be using the new health insurance tax credits for small businesses as a marketing tool.

BC/BS Kansas ad

BC/BS of Kansas City had the same idea. They launched a campaign called “Health Care Reform May Have Saved You 35% on Your Health Insurance”. The company ran newspaper, magazine, radio and online banner ads. It partnered with H&R Block to offer an online calculator for small businesses to estimate their tax savings. BC/BS of Kansas City reached out directly to current and potential customers as well as engaging the participation of insurance brokers.

The result?

Sales for BC/BS of Kansas City during the first three months of the campaign nearly doubled in the small group market compared to the previous year. The campaign resulted in over 5,000 workers from new small businesses customer being enrolled in BC/BS group insurance products. The company gave all the credit for this success to the new tax credit.

This is exactly what the new law was to do—make health insurance more affordable for small businesses to encourage them to offer the employee benefit.

Fortunately, BC/BS of Kansas City ignored the disparaging comments that continue to come from the pretender small business organization—the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

The NFIB has been very vocal in its dismissive opinion of the new tax credit program saying that it is not enough, it doesn’t include all businesses and it expires.

What the NFIB really is saying is that it can’t come out and oppose the tax credits because that would be a PR disaster. But they don’t want them to succeed either because if they do, Congress will never repeal the new health care law. And that means that the NFIB, which opposed the reform law, will lose a revenue stream from the health insurance it sells when the exchanges are in place in 2014.

Well, BC/BS of Kansas City has demonstrated that the tax credits do work to make health insurance more affordable for small businesses. And according to a report released last week from FamiliesUSA and the Small Business Majority, 88.1 percent of South Carolina’s businesses, those with fewer than 25 employees, are eligible for the tax credits and 15,900 are eligible for the maximum tax credit of 35 percent. Remember that small businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees are not required to offer insurance so the tax credit program is pure carrot—no stick.

So my challenge to South Carolina’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield, as well as to all the other health insurance companies serving our state, is this. If you haven’t already, are you going to follow BC/BS of Kansas City’s free market example of using a government provided tool to increase profits? Or are you going to continue to fight the lost political battle and hope for a Hail Mary ending?

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