NU Online News Service, April 17, 10:15 a.m. – Blue Cross Blue Shield plans have become a formidable competitor with national commercial insurers and are once again a significant factor in the health insurance industry, concludes a new study by Conning Research & Consulting Inc., Hartford, Conn.

The study, “BCBS Plans: Roaring Back?” argues that BCBS plans were once slow to react to competition and suspicious of cooperative relationships with providers. Now, however, they have revived, fueled by conversion to for-profit businesses, which changed them into “super blues” that became a refuge for consumers fleeing more tightly managed programs, says Conning.

Conning says their recent revival has turned the tables on three widely held “myths” about the Blues:

  1. “BCBS plans continue to follow the market rather than lead it.” Conning found, rather, that the Blues’ financial performance leads the industry.
  2. “BCBS plans need to be for-profit and publicly traded to achieve strong financial performance.” Within the BCBS family, Conning points out, mutual companies actually performed as well as or better than BCBS stock or publicly traded counterparts.
  3. “BCBS plans, while successful in their local niche, can’t compete with larger, national players.” Conning says that its direct comparison between BCBS organizations and their non-BCBS counterparts found that the opposite is true: The BCBS plans had better financial results.