Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona will automatically renew health-insurance plans for customers who have plans that may have been canceled under the Affordable Care Act.
The health insurer is mailing letters informing individual and family-plan customers that their policies will extend through Dec. 31, 2014. Customers can opt out of their plans and instead shop for coverage from Healthcare.gov, purchase through an insurance broker or buy a policy from another company.
“We’ve had a lot of questions from members on this,” said Jeff Stelnik, Blue Cross’ senior vice president of strategy, sales and marketing. “We thought this was the simplest and most effective way to continue (coverage).”
The insurer’s pre-emptive strike comes as many consumers have received notices that their existing health-insurance plans will be canceled because they don’t meet the standards of the nation’s health-care law. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, health-insurance plans can’t deny coverage to the sick, must limit annual out-of-pocket costs to $6,350, and cover a set of 10 health benefits for things like hospital stays, prescription drugs, mental health and maternity care.
Faced with the furor over mass cancellations, President Obama announced a revised policy last month that would allow insurance companies to extend individual and family plans for another year even if they don’t meet the health-care law’s minimum standards. States and insurance companies must agree to extend the plans.
So far, Gov. Jan Brewer has not said whether she would allow such an extension in Arizona, and her press secretary has not answered inquiries on the topic.
Even if Brewer rejects Obama’s fix, health insurers are allowed to renew existing policies for another year as long as such renewals are completed before Dec. 31. Blue Cross Blue Shield expects to notify about 55,000 customers by this week that their policies will be extended through 2014.
Consumers are also allowed to keep “grandfathered plans” that were in place when the ACA was signed into law in March 2010. About 50,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield customers have chosen to keep such plans since the law was passed.