Wellmark looks to regain dominance in Iowa, South Dakota

Just seven days into 2015, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is already hoping to regain its dominance in Iowa and South Dakota.

When Wellmark opted out of selling its plans on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the startup nonprofit CoOportunity Health swept into Iowa, enrolling more than 35,000 members by Jan 1., 2014, and earning $127 million dollars in premium volume.

However, the Iowa insurance department has taken control of CoOportunity Health because the insurer has insufficient capital, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Wellmark's decision to not sell exchange plans allowed consumers with bad risk profiles to flood the public exchanges, which was where CoOportunity was selling plans in Iowa. Perhaps this was its strategy all along, Cliff Gold, CoOportunity CEO and a former Wellmark marketing executive, told Healthcare Payer News.

Prior to the ACA, Wellmark sold more than 80 percent of the individual plans in Iowa. It had more than a 60 percent share of the small group market and 78 percent of the large group market, according to HCPN. The insurer also sold the most off-exchange plans in both Iowa and South Dakota in 2014. 

Now, Wellmark is once again growing its business--and its profile. On Jan. 1, the insurer celebrated the opening of Des Moines' new $32 million Wellmark YMCA, so named because the insurer donated the land on which the facility was built, HPN reported. 

Wellmark will most likely start selling on the public exchanges come 2016. Even if CoOportunity no longer sells plans in Iowa, Wellmark may see competition from Coventry. As a result, Wellmark intends to introduce new health plans and to improve support in this region.

For more:
- here's the Healthcare Payer News story