CoverTN suspending new-member enrollment

Friday, November 13, 2009 at 12:45am
Staff Reports

Reaching budget capacity in just three years, CoverTN program officials on Thursday announced that new enrollment in the limited benefit health insurance program will be suspended at the end of the year.

As of Dec. 31, the most successful open enrollment in the program’s history will end. Officials say it marks another milestone for CoverTN as the program surpasses its enrollment target. But it also means another door to health care is closing for people in Tennessee.

“This really is a bittersweet moment for CoverTN,” said Gerald Reed, director of CoverTN. “We’re coming off an open enrollment period that resulted in more than 2,500 new members, which demonstrates the need for this program. At the same time, we must continue to manage the program within our budget capacity, which for now means we need to suspend new enrollment.”

Current members and participating businesses, as well as those who have been approved for effective coverage in January 2010, will be unaffected by the suspension, officials said.

Any business or individual wishing to begin the enrollment process has until Nov. 30 to pre-qualify with the state, which can be done by visiting www.CoverTN.gov. However, those who have pre-qualified but have not yet enrolled with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee must do so by Dec. 31.

Since its inception in 2007, CoverTN has provided basic health coverage for the state’s working uninsured through partnership between the state, small employers and individuals. Monthly premiums are divided into thirds, with the state paying one-third of the cost for each member.

According to CoverTN, the plan has seen steady growth since its inception and has sought to enroll those Tennesseans who lacked insurance because no options for coverage existed.

In 2008, CoverTN introduced an eligibility category for the recently unemployed known as Tennesseans Between Jobs. This allowed those who had lost health coverage as a result of layoffs or work hour reductions to come into the program.

Officials report that the category has seen continued growth as a result of the economic downturn, with more than 1,500 members in just under a year.

“This program started with a very targeted population in mind that has not historically been a focus of the industry,” Reed added. “We’ve maintained our focus on the working uninsured and have been incredibly pleased with the response we’ve had. Our member satisfaction levels are high and retention in the program is comparable to other commercial products.”

This change for CoverTN follows the October announcement that CoverKids, Tennessee’s health coverage program for uninsured children, will suspend enrollment on Nov. 30, also due to budget limitations.

CoverTN is a program of Cover Tennessee, Gov. Phil Bredesen’s initiative to address the health care needs of Tennessee’s uninsured. For more information about any of the programs, visit www.CoverTN.gov or call 1-866-COVERTN.