Nearly 40,000 Idahoans covered by state's largest insurers must pick new plans

adutton@idahostatesman.comOctober 31, 2013 

Most Idahoans who bought plans from Idaho's largest insurance companies will have to choose new policies this year. That's because the plans were issued or changed after the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010.

Those consumers' now-extinct insurance plans are at the center of national news and a piece of legislation backed by Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo.

About 15,000 individuals covered by Blue Cross of Idaho and 2,500 individuals covered by Regence BlueShield of Idaho can keep their existing plans.

Those plans are grandfathered into the new system, which requires health insurers to offer a minimum set of benefits, including many preventive-care services.

For those grandfathered plans, insurers will continue to charge premiums based on gender, medical history and other factors. For new plans, insurers can consider nothing but tobacco use, age and geographic location when setting prices.

Tens of thousands of Idahoans must decide

The rest — about 85 percent of Regence members and two-thirds of Blue Cross members — who had individual plans won't lose coverage. But they must choose between:

  • Buying a new plan. If purchased on Idaho's health insurance exchange, that plan may come with subsidies to lower the premium.
  • Defaulting to the lowest-price, lowest-value plan offered by the insurer — without subsidies to lower the premium, since the plan isn't purchased through the exchange.

Idaho senators want law amended

Crapo and others have criticized President Obama this week for campaigning on the Affordable Care Act with the promise that Americans who liked their insurance plan could keep it.

"Millions of Americans were misled," Crapo said in a press release. "For many Americans, that is not the case. Obamacare regulations require that certain plans provide a different coverage package even if an individual does not need or want it. Idahoans are now learning that the flawed health care law will force them to change their plans and, in many cases, pay higher premiums."

Crapo and Risch are cosponsors on a bill by Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson that would allow people to keep existing insurance policies.

Obama countered that criticism Wednesday in a speech in Boston, saying fewer than 5 percent of Americans had "cut-rate plans that don't offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident."

He blamed "bad-apple insurers" for selling consumers coverage that "turned out not to be so good."

Obama said consumers who liked those plans and are now losing them can "just shop around in the new marketplace," which so far has failed to enroll consumers as expected.

Worried you'll lose your plan?

If your plan is going away, it will make some noise on its way out.

Idaho consumers whose plans are disappearing will receive letters from insurance companies about 90 days before the policy ends. And that's just the bare minimum.

Blue Cross has done two mailings, will do two more mailings and will attempt to contact members by telephone, spokeswoman Karen Early said.

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, @IDS_Audrey

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service