Follow us:

HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

September 19, 2013 at 5:09 PM

Insurer’s letters prompt state to issue consumer alert

The state Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) issued a consumer alert Thursday advising state residents who buy their own health insurance to know their options when choosing their next health plan.

The commissioner’s office issued the alert in response to dozens of phone calls and emails from consumers upset by letters from their insurance carriers explaining that their current health plan will be discontinued at the end of the year.

Insurance carriers are replacing their current individual health plans with new insurance products that include the essential health benefits and limits on cost-sharing required under the federal Affordable Care Act.

All of the carriers have sent customers a 90-day notice that their current plan will be discontinued. The letters also suggest a specific health plan –- one of the insurer’s other products –- as a replacement.

The letters sent by Regence Blue Shield and Group Health Cooperative also state that consumers can explore additional health-plan options available from other carriers and through the state’s new health-insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder.

But the letters sent by Premera Blue Cross and its subsidiary LifeWise Health Plan of Washington do not mention these other options.

“Companies are required to give you notice if they’re replacing your plan,” Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a statement. “But, unfortunately, they may not include all of your options — including your right to pick a new plan from a different company, or buy through the new exchange, WAhealthplanfinder.org.”

The OIC is concerned that this omission may mislead consumers, said OIC spokesperson Stephanie Marquis.

The OIC had suggested to all of the carriers that they include information about Washington Healthplanfinder in their discontinuation letters. Only Premera and LifeWise did not do so, Marquis said.

The OIC offers a map of exchange plans by county and the plan rates on its website.

0 Comments | Topics: discontinuation, Mike Kreidler, Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►