9 insurance companies to renew plans

Some Jackson County residents will indeed get to keep their insurance.

Nine insurance companies told the Oregon Insurance Division Friday they will offer the option to renew current individual health plans that failed to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, Providence Health Plan, LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon, Health Net Health Plan of Oregon Inc., Time Insurance Co. and John Alden Life Insurance Co. told the state they will offer renewals through Dec. 31, 2014. The companies collectively cover about 60 percent of people in Oregon's individual insurance market.

Moda Health Plan and PacificSource Health Plans are offering to renew previously canceled policies through March 31, 2014.

"Most of these people will qualify for tax credits through the exchange," said Cheryl Martinis, a spokesperson for the state's Consumer and Business Services Department. "While they can keep their policies with those companies, they would have fewer out-of-pocket expenses going through the exchange. There were a bunch of people who couldn't afford to use the (policies) they had because of the high deductible."

The insurance companies are required to notify customers of their options by Nov. 29. The renewals will not be automatic. People who want to renew current plans must opt in to keep their current plan.

To be eligible, people must have been covered by their plan on Oct. 1, 2013, with continued coverage through Dec. 31.

Martinis said people who choose to keep existing plans will not qualify for tax credits, which could potentially lower their costs, through Cover Oregon. But they would avoid a tax penalty in 2014 under the individual mandate.

Last week, Oregon Insurance Commissioner Laura Cali gave insurers the option of continuing existing plans through March or December of next year. Companies had to notify the Insurance Division Friday with their decisions.

With the announced extensions by the insurers, Cali said Oregon consumers have more choices than ever in 2014.

Not all of the companies announcing renewal options offer insurance through the exchange. In Jackson County, Pacific Source Health Plans, Health Republic Insurance, BridgeSpan Health, Moda Health Plan, Providence Health Plan, LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon, Oregon's Health CO-OP and Trillium Community Health Plan are on the exchange list.

"Consumers can choose to keep current plans a little longer or they can choose to shop for more comprehensive benefits and financial assistance through Cover Oregon," Cali said.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

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