Despite predictions to the contrary, losing the Blue Cross and Blue Shield name apparently hasn't hurt Cleveland's largest health plan.
Medical Mutual of Ohio, which initiated a nine-month court fight to block its ouster by the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, now is questioning the value of a Blues affiliation (See related story, p. 74).
The former Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio said its enrollment barely dipped following its termination from the Blues last spring.
Moreover, the Ohio Department of Insurance expects to lift its supervision of the plan in March, saying managerial and financial problems have been put to rest.
The plan expects to report a $60 million profit for 1997, including $45 million from selling assets, on revenues of $922 million. That's compared with a 1996 loss of $95 million on revenues of $1 billion.
"The loss of the (Blues) trademarks seemed to have little significance for the company relative to its enrollment," said insurance department spokeswoman Terri Leist. "If you talk to the subscribers and policyholders, as long as they were receiving their services, I'm not sure it meant much to them whether they were Blue Cross policyholders or not."
The national Blues ousted the plan last spring because of its controversial attempt to sell its assets to for-profit Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. Regulators blocked the deal in March 1997.
The Cleveland plan was the first to be terminated from the Blues for nonfinancial reasons.
As a result, the plan lost 92,000 of its 1.4 million enrollees -- most of whom were covered by national Blues contracts. But the plan says it quickly regained 90,000 new enrollees following an aggressive sales effort last summer in which top company officials paid personal visits to employers.
Medical Mutual's enrollment is down from 1.5 million when the deal was announced in 1996.
Its biggest customer, the Cleveland-based Council of Smaller Enterprises, which buys insurance for 13,000 small businesses, recently signed a new three-year pact after evaluating as many as 20 other plans. The deal represents about 200,000 covered lives.
"They had to prove to us that they had their house in order," said council Senior Director Scott Lyon. The expiration of the council's contract with Medical Mutual July 1 was seen as an opportunity for other insurers to capture new business.
Employers "are looking for value," said Kent Clapp, Medical Mutual's chairman, president and chief executive officer. "The cross and shield has never meant anything anyway."
Chris Molineaux, vice president for communications at the Blues association, said firms representing 17,000 enrollees voluntarily switched to Ohio's only remaining Blues plan, Cincinnati-based Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
"Maybe the Blue Cross and Blue Shield name means nothing to Kent Clapp, but it certainly means something to those 17,000 subscribers that decided to stay Blue," Moli-neaux said.
However, Anthem said its total enrollment in Northeastern Ohio hasn't changed since April 1997, when it was 309,000. The plan did enjoy a 10% jump between December 1996 and April 1997.
Anthem, which has 1.7 million enrollees in Ohio, or about 15% of the market, said it expects to expand its Cleveland presence gradually.
"The (Blues) marks have very, very significant value to the senior market (and) baby boomers -- more at the member level maybe than the employer level," said Jim Barone, Anthem's regional vice president for sales in Ohio.