Alaskans get health policy cancellation notices

JUNEAU — The largest health insurer in Alaska has sent cancellation notices to more than half its individual members in the state because their existing policies do not meet requirements of the new federal health care law.

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield spokeswoman Melanie Coon said Friday that of its more than 9,000 individual members in Alaska, fewer than 3,800 were on "grandfathered" plans. Those are plans that were in existence before March 23, 2010, and have changed very little.

Coon said discontinuation notices have gone to about 5,360 other members, who have been told they will be matched to new plans that are closest to what they had before in an effort to keep anyone from losing coverage.

She said if the company doesn't hear from those individuals by March 31, they will be enrolled in the plan Premera has mapped them to.

"Because we don't want them to fall through the cracks," she said. "This is kind of a consumer protection that we're giving our members. We don't want them to lose their coverage."

The health care law requires plans to have a minimum level of benefits, including preventative care benefits, that some current plans don't have, Coon said. Currently, some people have basic plans that might cover, for example, a hospital visit for a broken arm, while other expenses are paid out of pocket, she said.

Starting in the new year, nearly all Americans will be required to have insurance under the health care law or face fines. March 31 is the end of the open enrollment period under the law and also the date by which people must sign up for insurance to avoid a penalty.

Coon said most of the calls the company has received so far have been from individuals wanting to know what they need to do and by when.

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska also is one of two companies — along with Moda Health — offering policies on the federally run online health marketplace for Alaska.

A spokeswoman for another insurer in Alaska, Aetna, said by email that that company is not releasing the numbers of letters it has sent out.


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