Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers with sub-par policies get reprieve

LITTLE ROCK — The company with the largest share of the health insurance market in Arkansas says it is not cancelling any of its Arkansas customers’ policies on Jan. 1.

In other states, many who bought insurance plans in the individual insurance market after March 23, 2010, the day the federal Affordable Care Act was signed into law, have received letters from carriers advising them that they will lose their plans on Jan. 1. That’s the date new standards for health insurance plans will go into effect under the law. Plans that were bought before the law took effect are exempt from the new standards.

Holders of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans that were not grandfathered in are not receiving cancellation letters, however, according to spokeswoman Max Greenwood.

“We were able to amend those contracts to give those members an extra year,” she said. “The state Insurance Department allowed us to do so.”

On March 15, state Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford issued a directive allowing all insurance carriers in the state to amend contracts so that plans that were not grandfathered in under the Affordable Care Act can remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2014. Those plans will be exempt from the new standards set by the federal law throughout 2014.

Bradford said Wednesday he issued the directive because “I just felt like people ought to be able to let their policy run its course, and we were permitted to do so under the federal guidelines.”

He said the extension gives people more time to see what their options are, although they will still need to find a different policy before the end of next year.

“That’s one reason that we’re not having as much unrest over that transition,” he said. “It won’t have the impact in Arkansas that it might have in some other venues.”