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Blue Cross changes affect Kansans

By Bryan Richardson

Yes, Kansans buying coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield are protected from becoming uninsured because of the Affordable Care Act.

However, keeping an equivalent medical insurance policy could cost a little bit more.

A significant number of people buying policies in the individual market have just discovered that their plans are being phased out.

But the notion that they’ll be left uninsured or forced to pay exorbitant rates isn’t necessarily true.

Mary Beth Chambers, corporate communications manager for Blue Cross Blue Shield Kansas, said Thursday that about 9,500 current individual contracts (35 per cent of 27,000 customers) will be cancelled due to not meeting the minimum standards required by the Affordable Care Act.

However, the company is required to offer a policy with the new standards included – although premiums could be slightly higher.

Among other changes to coverage, insurance companies now are prohibited from dropping customers due to preexisting conditions.

Individuals (and that term includes single persons or families) can shop for insurance on the new exchange or choose to accept their adjusted policy from a company such as Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Essential health benefits must include: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

Americans will be required to have health insurance by Jan. 1 or face fines.

These cancellations haven’t applied to large employers, although there could be future changes.

Manhattan city employees could face adjustments in their coverage should the city change the way it handles insurance.

Cathy Harmes, the city’s human resources director, said the city has been grandfathered in for at least one more year.

The city has a self-funded plan, which means health costs are paid directly from the city rather than a health insurance provider.

“We don’t know what possible changes will be on the horizon, so we chose to keep our current plan grandfathered,” Harmes said.

Harmes said the city would be monitoring the situation as additional provisions from the act are enacted in 2015.

Larry Doll, USD 383 human resources director, said the district’s plan meets the act’s requirements.

Riley County and Kansas State University human resource officials also said they meet the act’s requirements through the state’s insurance.

Doll estimated that an additional 280 employees would be eligible for health benefits through the district.

The employees would be classroom aides and transportation employees, he said.

This is due to the Affordable Care Act’s redefinition of who is eligible for employer insurance.

Starting in 2015, anyone who works at least 30 hours a week would be considered a full-time employee – as opposed to the current 40 hours a week.

Harmes said the city is still trying to determine how this may affect insurance for seasonal workers.

She said employees at various large employers could be affected by this particular change.

“That’s why you hear people dropping employees to 29 hours, so they don’t meet the 30-hour threshold,” Harmes said.

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