Q&A: A Payer CEO on the New Healthcare Market

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , July 3, 2012

Brad Wilson, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina: So that says there's 1.2 million commercial customers that will be eligible for a federal subsidy. So I would say that the market is creating a question mark [about] how many of those will in fact choose to purchase, and a question mark about how will an insurer navigate through the guarantee issue, the age ban, the prohibition on medical underwriting, and how will that translate into profitability or not—that would be my unsophisticated interpretation of what the stock market did.

And on the provider side, I find that curious, because the focus going forward is going to continue to be on higher quality and lower cost, and when I say lower cost, I'm not just talking about health insurance premiums. I'm talking about healthcare costs that underpin and are reflected in the health insurance premium. There's going to continue to be cost pressure on lowering that side of the equation, so that premiums do not increase at the rate that we've seen them increase for the last 20 years. So we'll see. We'll see what the stock market does tomorrow.

HealthLeaders Media: About your own investments in bringing BCBSNC into your next phase with presumably lots more customers, I would guess your plans remain unchanged by this morning's ruling and may in fact be intensified a little bit.

Wilson: I don't think anything will change. To the extent that we can intensify our efforts beyond what we're already doing, we will. We're going to stay focused on the decisions that we've already made. We're focused on innovation. We're focused on new and creative collaborations with providers across the state. We already have a track record on that. That continues, and I think it'll do nothing but expand and accelerate our appetite and the need for that to be done. I want to say that that's a reflection of what we're seeing in the provider community: they are reaching out to us, we are reaching out to them. I've been at BlueCross for 16 years and in this job two and a half, and I have never seen such a high level of cooperative and creative spirit that exists with all of the principal players in the healthcare marketplace. So we're going to continue to be focused on those kinds of efforts to the end, to bring products and services to our customers that they need and want, with the goal being higher quality, lower cost.

Scott Mace is senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.
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