Indianapolis - WellPoint, Inc. is the latest benefits provider to unveil a plan to help address the growing ranks of the uninsured. The WellPoint plan is a blend of public and private initiatives aimed at ensuring universal coverage for children and providing new and more attractive options for the working uninsured. The plan is a part of a mission to improve the lives of the people it serves and the health of its communities, says the company. Insurance Networking News reported in October 2006 that eHealth Inc., the parent company of Mountain View, Calif.-based eHealthInsurance Services Inc., planned to serve the growing market of uninsured and underinsured consumers with online tools and ultimate health insurance products. The company, which planned to raise $47.1 million in an initial public offering, said in its prospectus that, except for large companies buying insurance in bulk, finding medical coverage is time-consuming, paper-wasting, complicated and expensive. Through its Web site, eHealth has sold health insurance electronically to 325,000 consumers, and points to this statistic: More than 40% of those customers were uninsured before finding the site. At WellPoint, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, the mission is similar: "A core focus of our company's strategy is to reduce the rate of the uninsured and under-served," said Larry Glasscock, WellPoint's chairman, president and CEO. "The plan we've developed will broaden the reach of our health care system to include those who need it most."  According to WellPoint, more than 46 million Americans under the age of 65 did not have health insurance in 2005. Approximately 45% of these individuals are either eligible for public programs and are not enrolled or voluntarily choose not to purchase coverage, while the remaining 55% simply cannot afford private insurance. Although WellPoint was received national recognition in 2006 for its health care Web sites, the company's plan may not have a robust technology focus (similar to eHealth's). Rather, its focus is to support the expansion of state health care programs to cover more of the 9 million American children who went without coverage last year. Specifically, WellPoint urges states to expand their programs to cover children in families that earn up to 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL), which means that for a family of four, they can earn up to $60,000. The plan also includes a call for improved outreach to enroll the majority of uninsured children -- up to 70%-- who are already eligible for public programs. WellPoint also calls for the expansion of state health care programs to include parents in families that earn up to 200% of FPL (a family of four could earn up to $40,000) and for childless adults who earn up to 100% of FPL ($9,800 for a single adult). If adopted by all states, the proposed expansion of public programs, coupled with a successful outreach campaign, could provide coverage to 25 million people who are currently uninsured, claims WellPoint. To help pay for the changes to these programs, WellPoint will support an increase in tobacco taxes. WellPoint's plan also includes a financial commitment from the company's charitable foundation of at least $30 million over the next three years to support community and state-based programs related to the company's uninsured initiatives across the country that are helping to provide access to care.Sources: PRNewswire, Insurance Networking News' Archives, WellPoint

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