Blue Cross Collects $450 Million in Premiums

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the state's largest health insurance provider. The Blues collected $449.3 million in traditional health insurance premiums in 1997, according to annual reports on file with the Arkansas Insurance Department. Blue Cross' business in the state far outpaces the next-largest health insurer, Prudential Insurance Co. of America.

Arkansas BCBS was established in 1948 and now has employees in Arkansas and Baton Rouge, La. BCBS also has seven fully staffed regional offices throughout the state. Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield subsidiaries include USAble Life Insurance Co. and USAble Administrators.

In all, BCBS offers health insurance in one form or another to more than 600,000 Arkansans. Managed care plans constitute the bulk of Blue Cross and Blue Shield's customer base. The BCBS-owned Health Advantage HMO has more than 175,000 members and Arkansas' FirstSource, a preferred provider orgainzation, claims more than 330,000 members.

Hartford Life Insurance Co. of Hartford, Conn., is the largest seller of life insurance in Arkansas, writing $47.4 million in life premiums in 1997, followed closely by Connecticut General Life Insurance Association (CIGNA) at $41.7 million.

The accompanying list of health insurance companies includes only basic and major medical health expense plans but disregards managed care plans such as health maintenance organizations.

Traditional health insurance is usually classified as indemnity contracts. These plans indemnify, or reimburse, the customer for medical expenses incurred; typically these "traditional" insurance plans require the completion and filing of claim forms. In addition, these plans usually contain deductible and coinsurance cost- sharing provisions and may restrict coverage for certain types of medical care costs.

Indemnity plans, however, provide the insurance customer with substantial freedom relative to the choice of physician, including whether a primary care physician or a specialist will be seen. In contrast, HMO coverage usually emphasizes comprehensive (including preventive) care and typically contains very few exclusions, no deductible or small deductibles, and nominal co-payments.

Insurance News

o United Security Life of Redwood, Calif., announced last week it plans to sell health insurance in the state. The health insurance company is now offering its traditional individual health insurance through InsWeb, the leading online insurance marketplace ( Even though sold through the Internet, United Security Life was required to register with the state InsuranceDepartment. United Security's arrangement with InsWeb allows it to also sell its health plans in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska.

o American General Life and Accident Insurance Co. of Nashville, Tenn., which collected $13.1 million in life insurance premiums in Arkansas last year, has merged with two other insurers: Independent Life and Accident Insurance Co. and Home Beneficial Life Insurance Co. Neither of the latter companies have done business in Arkansas.