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Sat, Dec. 07

If you liked your old plan, you can try to get it back

PHOENIX - New changes at the federal and state level will allow health insurance plans that didn't originally comply with the Affordable Care Act to be renewed for another year.

The Arizona Department of Insurance, which is responsible for oversight of the insurance industry in the state and is located in Phoenix, is allowing insurance companies throughout the state to decide whether to renew individual and small group plans that were purchased between March 24, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2013. Those plans originally were slated for cancellation by the end of last year.

"There was a lot of noise from insurance customers who were happy with their policies and wanted to keep them," said Jeff Stelnik, senior vice president of strategy, sales and marketing for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. "Our company has made a decision to do what our customers ask for and keep their plans for another year."

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona is the state's largest health care insurer for the individual market.

The state's decision in May came after the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which is responsible for implementing the Affordable Care Act, announced in March it was extending the renewal deadline for another year and leaving it up to each state to determine whether it would do the same.

ADOI Director Germaine Marks said a significant number of Arizona policyholders who had the opportunity to keep those policies last year chose to do so. Marks said listening to insurers who want to continue offering these plans and to consumers who wish to be able to use them led to the department's decision.

"Ensuring that Arizona's consumers have choice in the insurance market and encouraging insurers to provide that choice, when appropriate, is consistent with the Department of Insurance's mission," said Marks.

Stelnik said there are about 75,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield customers in Arizona whose policies fall in the endangered category because they don't comply with ACA rules. Stelnik said he isn't surprised by the ongoing changes in rules surrounding the ACA, but he is pleased about the new deadline options for customers looking to hold on to their current policies a little longer and he applauds the state's decision.

"It gives customers a choice of being able to renew their policies or purchase something new that meets ACA guidelines," said Stelnik. "We're also listening to our customers and hearing they want choices, alternatives and different plans to meet their individual needs. We don't see a down side to having lots of choices and we support this 100 percent."

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