KHI News Service

Kansas insurer says business end of also working better

Fewer errors spotted in records as initial enrollment deadline nears

By Jim McLean | December 24, 2013

Kansans are encountering fewer problems signing up for coverage in the online insurance marketplace as an initial enrollment deadline approaches, according to a spokesperson for the state’s largest insurer.

Navigators and trained enrollment counselors have said they’ve seen marked improvement in the marketplace since federal officials declared it “fixed” on Dec. 1. Things also appear to finally be working better on the business end of the system.

Mary Beth Chambers, a spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas.

View larger photo

“Early on, there were a lot of transactional issues,” said Mary Beth Chambers, a spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, the state’s largest private health insurer.

Digital purchase forms — called 834s — contained so many errors that company sales representatives had to sort through them by hand, Chambers said. That is no longer necessary.

“In the last several weeks as the volume has increased and the information has seemed to be more accurate, we have suspended that (hand sorting) process and we’re now allowing the 834s to go through our computer system and set up enrollments,” Chambers said.

Today is the last day that consumers can sign up if they want their coverage to start on Jan. 1. But they have until Jan. 10 to make their first payments.

People who don’t meet today’s deadline can purchase coverage through the end of the March 31 open enrollment period.

Approximately 10,000 BCBS policyholders whose coverage no longer meets federal standards have a choice to make. They can keep their noncomplying policies for another year or purchase new, more comprehensive plans. Given the option, the company is assuming most will opt to keep the coverage they have.

“We sent them a letter and we said, ‘we’re going to assume that you are going to keep your plan unless you call and let us know or you don’t pay your premium for January,’” Chambers said.

Chambers said BCBS won’t know how many people opted to keep their old policies rather than purchase new more comprehensive coverage until after the first premiums are due on Jan. 10.

“We won’t have a real good feel for the number of people who have renewed until sometime after that,” she said.

The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute. It is supported in part by a variety of underwriters. The News Service is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy-making environment. All News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution, including a link back to when a story is reposted online. An automatically updated feed of headlines and more from KHI can be included on your website using the KHI widget. More about the News Service at or contact us at (785) 233-5443.