A record 88.7 million Americans were enrolled in Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans at the end of the first quarter, besting a mark that had stood for 28 years, the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association said Wednesday.
Enrollment grew by 4% from the 85.3 million reported at the end of 2002 to surpass the previous record total of 87.9 million in 1975.
The nation's 42 independent Blues licensees collectively added a net 3.4 million patients to their rolls during the quarter, marking nine consecutive years of enrollment growth, according to the Chicago-based association. Twenty-three Blues companies reported membership gains, eight with growth of at least 5% and 10 with a net increase of more than 100,000 enrollees each.
Despite declines in indemnity and point-of-service plans, enrollment in Blues PPO plans expanded by 4.6 million people, while an additional 300,000 patients signed up for Blue Cross and Blue Shield HMOs. National plans account for 4 million of the new enrollees, while "freestanding" plans--for patients with dental, vision, mental health, prescription or hearing coverage but not basic medical or hospital insurance through the Blues--added 900,000 enrollees.
Blues spokesperson Brian Crawford says that the totals include the 3.9 million people in Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia insured through CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Owings Mills, Md. The Blues association tried to strip CareFirst of its license last month after Maryland enacted a law that the association said gave state officials control of the company.
The association, CareFirst and the state of Maryland reached a settlement June 6 to allow CareFirst to continue to use the Blues name.