CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee announced today a new educational campaign designed to inform Tennesseans about the cost of health care and the coming impact of reform, which will expand coverage and benefits for millions of Americans but also increase the cost of insurance premiums beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

A new website – www.KnowTheCostTN.com – will help the public understand the different factors that have typically driven up the cost of health care, while also explaining aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will cause the cost of health care and insurance premiums to increase even more.

“The health care reform law will add new benefits and expand coverage for millions more Americans, which is a very good thing,” said Roy Vaughn, vice president of corporate communications for BlueCross. “Covering more people and more medical services, however, will increase the cost of coverage. As the state’s leading health plan, it is our responsibility to help Tennesseans understand these changes.”

The new website examines health care cost trends over the years – noting that medical costs have risen faster than consumer inflation for decades. It also explains how requirements of the health care reform law will lead to premium increases.

Elements of the law that drive coverage costs up include:

- Expanded benefits: All health insurance policies will have to cover a broader range of benefits than are typically included in many policies today. Paying for those mandatory benefits will cost more.

- Guaranteed coverage: Health insurers will be required to accept all individuals and employer groups that apply for coverage regardless of their health status or pre-existing conditions, with a few limited exceptions.

- Lower deductibles, higher premiums: Plans purchased by small employers will be required to have lower deductibles. Premiums are based in part on how much the plan and the member will each pay for health care services, so lower deductibles will mean higher premiums.

- Health insurance tax: The federal government will also impose a new tax on health insurance premiums to help subsidize costs for individuals buying insurance through the federal exchange, or marketplace.

Since before the law was passed, BlueCross has been working to develop value-based, cost-saving payment and delivery systems that will help improve efficiency – everything from bundled payment plans for episodes of care to accountable care systems to patient-centered medical homes.

The website offers individuals a number of tips on ways they can “know the cost” of the care they receive and work to lower that cost – everything from asking for second opinions to asking for the cost of a procedure and selecting the provider who offers the lowest cost.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.