TriState | Summer | 2009 | Health Plan Analysis

The winds of change are about to reshape the TriState health insurance market, starting with the announcement that UnitedHealth Group is planning to buy Health Net of the Northeast within 12 months. In an unusual deal, UnitedHealth is paying for a first crack at renewing some 437,000 Health Net commercial members as contracts come up for renewal. Rival carriers must now contemplate how they will go after this business, at a time when many of them are already stepping out of their comfort zones and making bold plays for customers. Oxford Health Plans, the UnitedHealthcare subsidiary that handles small business, is debuting its first HMO in recent memory in New York City, the latest play among carriers jockeying for the downstate small-group market. Meanwhile, more and more downstate group customers are opting for the menu approach to health insurance, driving record enrollment at the HealthPass insurance exchange. Across the border, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is nudging its small groups into a new Advantage product line with a unique twist to steer members away from costly out-of-network ambulatory centers. In Connecticut, CIGNA is introducing an individual product for the first time, while Independent Health in New York is trying its hand at an online vitamin store. Meanwhile, Blue plans prepare to make a big leap in Medicare.