Competition shakes up Tennessee ACA exchange: Highlights urban-rural divide, ups interest in cost impact

The distinguishing characteristic of Tennessee’s 2019 individual health insurance market may be competition—and geography will matter.

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Tennessee poised to get new ACA health insurers for 2019

Tennessee’s individual health insurance market is poised for new entrants and territory expansions from existing insurers in 2019 — a sharp reversal of the diminishing options that many shoppers faced in recent years. 

Bright Health and Celtic/Ambetter plan to offer insurance that complies with the Affordable Care Act, per filings with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. 

>Read more: Competition shakes up Tennessee ACA exchange: Highlights urban-rural divide, ups interest in cost impact

Meanwhile, Cigna and Oscar plan to expand their footprint, according to the TDCI. 

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will continue to offer individual insurance around the state with the exception of the greater Memphis and Nashville areas. 

The Tennessee insurance market has been beset by defections as insurers grappled with high claims cost and losses in the early years of the federal marketplace.

However, filings from BCBST and Cigna this time last year indicated a better understanding of how people used the plans. But the premiums for 2018 were higher due to volatility from federal policy uncertainty.

Insurers had to file their intentions by June 20. Rate filings, or the request for premiums, will be due on July 11. 

Where insurers intend to sell:

  • BCBST: Everywhere but greater Memphis and Nashville
  • Bright Health: New entrant. Greater Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville
  • Ambetter by Celtic: New Entrant. Greater Chattanooga and Memphis
  • Cigna: Expanding into Knoxville while keeping its Nashville, Memphis and Tri-Cities presence
  • Oscar: Expanding into Memphis while maintaining its Nashville presence

Note: This article will be updated.

Tight labor market highlights skills gap, wage obstacles in South

Tennessee Reconnect, a statewide adult education initiative, could be a model to boost access to skills training in the South, per a new report that assesses whether the region is primed to close the gap that keeps workers from some well paying jobs despite historically low unemployment rates.

There aren’t enough workers in the South to fill what’s called “middle skill” jobs, which include a variety of jobs such as plumber, electrician, bookkeeper, some medical assistant positions, according to a new report from the National Skills Coalition and the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and St. Louis.

The open positions have put pressure on state and private sectors to work together to ensure that potential employees have the opportunity to train for and learn the requisite skills. Tennessee’s unemployment rate stood at 3.5 percent in May.

“Employers are having a tough time finding skilled employees right now. They are feeling that squeeze right now. Once again it’s important to look at the causes behind that,” said Melissa Johnson, senior state policy analyst at the coalition and an author of the report.

Johnson said the organization wanted to take advantage of the tight labor market to determine what kinds of skills employers most need as a way to better understand the types of training or policies that need to be put in place.

Yet, a nuance of the tight labor market — and the state’s historically low level of education — is that many people are having to work more than one job to make ends meet. Not everyone feels like it’s a boom period, said Kenyatta Lovett, executive director of Complete Tennessee, a non-profit focused on postsecondary education.

For people with a high school degree or less, pre-recession employment never rebounded.

“The recession has continued and they are not able to take part in what this boom is about,” said Lovett.

In Tennessee, a worker would need to make $15.74 an hour, or work 87 hours a week at minimum wage, to afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to a new analysis by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  A one-bedroom in Tennessee would require 71 hours a week at the $7.35 minimum wage.

“We have to come to the reality that for a lot of individuals their main job doesn’t pay enough to survive and they have to take a second or third job. In most cases they are working more than one job — that drastically limits your time to achieve more education” said Lovett.

‘The cost of living is creeping up on them’

The skills report tips Tennessee Reconnect, a part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to ensure 55 percent of adults have education beyond high school, as an innovative approach that other states could follow as they try to make sure the workforce has the skills for current and future jobs. Tennessee Reconnect rolls out statewide this fall.

But it’s not clear at this point who will be able to take advantage of the program and what barriers, such as access to transportation or childcare, will impede enrollment, said Johnson.

“What we’re worried about is those below the poverty line may not be as strong in numbers as their peers,” said Lovett.

Lovett and others will be paying attention to enrollment and completion data to understand what makes successful adult education feasible.

“That is the interesting challenge that we have not just in Tennessee but across the nation,” said Lovett. “A lot of individuals would love to (go to school) but the cost of living is creeping up on them so they have to use that time to find other forms of employment to pay the bills.”

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State officials, looking for ways to develop a workforce that can ‘bob, weave, and adjust,’ push to forge apprenticeship network

The Weekender: ‘Good jobs’ without a BA exist, keeping workers in financial shape to be healthy + would you tackle an MD?

A screenshot of Nashville from the Neighborhood Map of U.S. Obesity, which overlays different types of Census and national health data, visualizes where obesity is more highly concentrated around the city.  The scale ranges from blue, which is zero to  24.24 percent obesity to red, which is 52.39 percent to 100 percent.

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State officials, looking for ways to develop a workforce that can ‘bob, weave, and adjust,’ push to forge apprenticeship network

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development presented its findings from a listening tour about what businesses, education and workers need from apprenticeships.

Continue reading “State officials, looking for ways to develop a workforce that can ‘bob, weave, and adjust,’ push to forge apprenticeship network”