Florida Blue canceling 300,000 individual policies

Thousands of consumers get cancellation notices due to health law changes

By Alicia Booth - Reporter/anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida's largest health care insurer -- Florida Blue -- is notifying hundreds of thousands of is customers who buy their own coverage it is cancelling their policies.

The Jacksonville-based company says that these policies do not cover some of the 10 "essential health benefits" the new Affordable Care Act requires of all individual policies starting Jan. 1. Those services include maternity care, mental health treatment and prescription drugs.

"Approximately 300,000 current Florida Blue members are enrolled in plans that will not meet these new benefit requirements," the company said in a statement provided on Wednesday. "Prior to their 2014 renewal date, each member will receive a letter that instructs them to contact Florida Blue to review their migration options. These new plans will offer members access to more comprehensive benefits in 2014."

By all accounts, the new policies will offer consumers better coverage, in some cases, for comparable cost -- especially after the inclusion of federal subsidies for those who qualify.  The policies must also cap consumers' annual expenses at levels lower than many plans sold before the new rules.

"It is important to note that a person's individual situation will be the key driver of what they will pay for coverage under the ACA," Florida Blue's statement says. "Subsidies will be available in the marketplace to lower the cost of coverage for eligible individuals, and the amount an individual will pay could vary significantly once his or her specific age, area in which they live, smoking status, family size, and income are factored in."

But the cancellation notices have shocked many consumers in light of President Barack Obama's promise that people could keep their plans if they liked them.

"I was promised that this would not affect me, and now it has, and I'm angry!" said Cheryl Carlyle, a local business owner who found out Wednesday the coverage she bought will eventually no longer exist.

An additional frustration is that with HealthCare.gov not working well, it's difficult for someone to figure out what their new policy will cost.

Florida Blue told Carlyle that her premiums will almost triple. And since Florida Blue is the only health insurer offering plans in the health exchange in all 67 Florida counties -- many people will end up with their coverage.

Helping individuals figure out what plan is best is what the Florida Health Planning Council and members of Enroll America are trying to do.

They are working with the federally-funded navigators to sign people up through the Health Marketplace website, so for now, they are trying to come up with other creative ways to spread information.

"Just trying to help everyone understand and manage until the website issues and glitches are worked out," said Nikole Helvey, of the Health Planning Council. "We're having some of the same difficulties that people at home are."

If you think you may qualify for a tax credit, you must sign up through the Marketplace. That means most people will have to wait until working or go through an agent who is certified to do so on your behalf.

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