WellPoint strikes up chat on health reform

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WellPoint Inc. is turning from opponent of the health care reform law passed in March to “trusted adviser.” Its Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield subsidiaries launched a website where Anthem representatives answer customers’ questions about the new health reform law.

The site, healthychat.com, launched on May 1, but Indianapolis-based WellPoint is now promoting its use. The hottest topic so far on the site is about the law’s requirement that health plans cover children of their customers up to age 26. Most states today allow insurers to drop dependent children once they stop attending school.

It has sparked 26 comments. Anthem’s answers are helpful when it comes to interpreting the law, such as one person who asked if her employer is allowed to keep her son off its plan until July 2011. (Answer: Yes, because  the law starts the requirement for insurance plan years that begin after Sept. 23. If this employer’s plan year begins in July, then the company can wait a full year to start dependent coverage.

Other questions show the limitations of anonymous online chat for giving advice. Several times, Anthem responders had to answer a question by saying, “You should regularly get in touch with your current or future insurance providers to learn more.”

The  conversations on healthychat.com can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

“We hope that consumers will find these tools valuable as they navigate the health care reform changes, and as they look for ways to improve their own health, and the health of those around them,” said Kate Quinn, vice president of corporate marketing for WellPoint.

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