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BlueCross BlueShield Goes Racing For Obamacare Customers

Michael Tomsic

Fast cars, greasy food, cold beer and a health insurance quote. Racing fans could find all those things Saturday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Blue Cross Blue Shield set up shop at the NASCAR race to tell people about how health care laws are changing, and find new customers in the process.

Just past a booth selling Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, the smells of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Bojangles’ fried chicken mix together right before you come across North Carolina’s largest health insurance company.

Welcome to the Bank of America 500.

“We’re ready to start it up - Health Care 500 going down here in just a few short seconds,” a Blue Cross Blue Shield DJ said. The Health Care 500 is what the company called the game show it hosted area where fans hung out before the race.

“You cannot be denied health insurance due to a preexisting medical condition,” the DJ said once the game started. “Is that A: true or B: false?”

OK, it wasn’t the most exciting game at the speedway. But people played to get free swag and win a chance to meet NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson at a later race. A recorded message from Johnson greeted them.

“This is an important time for all of us,” Johnson said in the message. “Health care is changing and it will be different for everyone.”

Next year most Americans will be required to get health insurance or pay a penalty. And this month, online marketplaces opened up where you can shop for coverage.

Both changes are part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. And both create an opportunity for insurance companies to find new customers.

“Well, you think about NASCAR racing – all walks of life, everything from corporate executives to everyday Americans really enjoy auto racing, and so we kind of look at, this is a pretty broad demographic mix for us,” said Michael Parkerson, vice president of marketing for Blue Cross.

Parkerson said his company will set up at other sports events too, like Panthers and Bobcats games.

At the speedway, Blue Cross estimated about 200 people got insurance quotes. One of them was Toni Noles.

“Everyone has to get insurance right now, and what better place to do it than at the racetrack where you’re having fun, and everybody’s calm, and you’re not going to reach across the table and slap somebody for giving you an outrageous estimate,” Noles said with a laugh.

Credit Michael Tomsic
Toni Noles and her fiancée, Jim Papin, after she got a health insurance quote at the NASCAR race.

She’s been on Medicaid and may still qualify for it, but she wants to check her options. She was with her fiancée, who drank a beer as an agent walked them through the process.

The agent pulled up a mid-level plan that would cost Noles $40.93 a month.

“That includes a possible subsidy of $271,” the agent said. The subsidy is based on Noles’ low income.

The result is a plan Noles said she can afford.

"Cool deal - $40.93, that’s not bad at all,” she said.

Noles traded contact information with the agent and said she’ll get back in touch about buying a plan. First, she had a race to watch.