BlueCross BlueShield customers must pick new plan

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, the largest underwriter of individual health plans in the state, plans to send about 66,000 letters to consumers over the next year informing them that they will have to choose another policy.

Other insurers are doing the same thing.

The changes are necessary because of the Affordable Care Act's minimum requirements. The federal health law dictates that plans must provide a certain level of coverage for 10 essential health benefits, ranging from the birth of a baby to rehabilitative services. Italso ended yearly and lifetime monetary limits on coverage — which was a standard element of most health insurance policies.

The letters from Blue Cross Blue Shield are going to people who bought individual policies that were not grandfathered in under the ACA. About 40,000 of the insurer's 106,000 individual policies were grandfathered in. A Blue Cross Blue Shield representative said the company is not canceling coverage.

"I assure you we don't like to turn customers away," said Roy Vaughn, vice president for Blue Cross in Tennessee.

The letters, which will go out as policies come up for renewal, inform people they will have to switch to a new plan that meets the law's requirements. They also point out a replacement plan that most closely matches the customer's existing policy, along with other coverage options.

"Nobody is getting turned away," Vaughn said. "No one is getting canceled."

President Barack Obama apologizedThursday to people who won't be able to keep their existing health plans despite his assurances that they would be able to do so under the Affordable Care Act.

He made the apology as insurers across the nation are sending out letters informing customers that they must choose another plan because their old one does not meet the law's coverage mandates.

"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," the president told NBC News in a White House interview. "We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this."

The intent of the letters from Blue Cross is to help consumers choose a replacement plan without experiencing a lapse in coverage, Vaughn said. But there will be cost differences.

"Some people may experience lower costs," Vaughn said. "Some may experience higher costs. It just depends upon what their policy was."

The troubled rollout of the website portal for the Health Insurance Marketplace, where people can shop online for coverage, may make it difficult to shop around for a replacement plan. Consumers also have the option of going to an independent private broker foradvice. Some charge consultation fees, but many do not.


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