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This pig is going to take off with your medical dollars!

<<< As notices of health insurance changes go out, some experience rate shock >>>

…The Oregonian – – September 19, 2013…

Some Oregonians who buy insurance on their own are experiencing rate shock as the first wave of required notices go out about changes to their plans under health reform.

Health insurers are required to give their customers 90 days notice if their plan is discontinued. Most insurance plans bought by individuals will end in 2014 to meet requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon customers appear to be the first to receive their notices this week. Three customers contacted The Oregonian complaining that they face premium hikes of between 30 and more than 100 percent if they stay with Regence.

Another lamented the loss of Regence’s high-deductible plan that qualifies for a health savings account. A few called the offices of U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber to complain, officials said.

Washington’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner also received complaints this week about the notices sent out by LifeWise and other insurers, The Seattle Times reported.

Bottom line: The changes mandated by Obamacare will impact consumers in different ways, depending on their age, their current plan and other factors. Consumers will want to shop around — on the state’s health exchange Cover Oregon when it opens Oct. 1 or outside the exchange via health insurance agents and brokers — to determine their best options, experts say.

“People really need to shop,” said Cheryl Martinis, a spokeswoman with the Oregon Insurance Division. “And we’ll be telling them that generally the best place to shop is Cover Oregon. It’s important that people understand they have options.”

Karin Swenson-Moore and Don Antonucci of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon testify before the Oregon Insurance Division in 2012 during a public hearing on a rate increase request. This week, individuals began receiving notices in the mail of rate changes stemming from federal health reform, and some report increases of more than 100 percent. About 200,000 Oregonians buy insurance on their own, outside of employers, Martinis said. Regence is one of the state’s largest providers in that market. But others carriers are offering more plans both inside and outside Cover Oregon, one broker said.

“Regence went really bare bones,” said Lisa Lettenmaier, who owns health insurance brokerage Health Source NW in Tigard. “Other carriers are trying to be innovative.”

Regence, in a statement, noted that health reform requires it to provide more comprehensive coverage than it did in plans it’s now eliminating. That includes coverage for mental health concerns, childhood vision and dental procedures, births and preventative doctor visits.

The new rates also reflect new taxes under the law, Regence said.

“As a result, benefits and premiums will increase for some of our members,” Regence said today in a statement.

Some Regence customers were on plans that limited office visits and had an annual out-of-pocket limit of $10,000, Lettenmaier said. Its new Silver plan will allow unlimited office calls and a $6,350 maximum annual out-of-pocket, she said.

But for customers who wanted only catastrophic coverage, that plan worked, and their options going forward will be fewer, she said.

Regence’s affiliate, Cambia Health Solutions Inc., will be offering plans on the exchange under the name BridgeSpan Health Co.

“They can choose another plan with us or with another insurance company on or off the state health insurance exchange,” Regence’s statement said. “We are happy to help members consider their choices in the evolving health insurance marketplace.”

The state insurance division has a consumer rate liaison who can answer questions about rate changes. Contact Ethan Baldwin at 503-947-7660 or via email.

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