Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland has filed for permission to offer limited health-care benefits to uninsured workers, a move that could potentially benefit hundreds of thousands of residents who are without health-care coverage.
The proposal, known as CorePlan One, has been filed with the insurance division of the Maryland Department of Licensing and Regulation.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield officials hope to begin marketing it to the public by September. The average cost of the coverage would be $89 a month, according to Blue Cross officials.
Estimates are that as many as 570,000 state residents are uninsured. Many are workers who are either employed by small companies that offer no insurance plans to workers, are self-employed or have an income that makes them ineligible for other medical insurance plans.
The issue of uninsured poor has been part of the national debate for years. The Bush administration was told last July that it would cost an estimated $4 billion to reach the poorest of the uninsured by expanding Medicaid benefits.
The federal government estimates that more than 33 million Americans lack health insurance. About 80 percent of those are workers or their dependents.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield proposal, which would be completely supported by subscribers, is an outgrowth of legislation approved by the General Assembly this year allowing insurers to provide such low-cost policies.
Currently, six other states have passed limited-benefits legislation similar to Maryland's: Arkansas, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and Rhode Island.
In Maryland, CorePlan One is the first proposal to come before the insurance division for approval.
Blue Cross intends to market the plan directly to individuals, but officials said they have no idea how many may subscribe.
Gary Raim, a marketing director at Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said that targeting small businesses would limit the number of uninsured workers who could subscribe.
"We felt it was a good first step to make the program available to as broad a market as possible," he said.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield now has 181,000 subscribers enrolled in individual health-care plans. In addition, the company has more than 1.3 million other subscribers.
The CorePlan One program would not be subsidized by group subscribers, but would be self-supporting and designed to break even financially, officials said.