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Thousands notified of health insurance cancellations in Alaska

Thousands of Alaskans are receiving notices from Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield saying that they will have to cancel their insurance plans and purchase new ones to come into compliance with the Affordable Care Act. Loren Holmes photo

Thousands of Alaskans are receiving cancellation notices for their health care insurance plans that soon will be out of compliance with the new federal health care law.

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska -- the state's largest insurance provider -- said about 5,400 Alaskans on individual plans received cancellation notices starting in September because their plans do not meet requirements set under the Affordable Care Act.

About 9,000 Alaskans have individual coverage according to Premera Spokesman Eric Earling. Of those, he said, about 3,800 purchased plans before March 23, 2010 -- when the health care law was enacted -- and are considered “grandfathered” in under the law.

Those not grandfathered in will have to purchase new insurance plans to come into compliance with the law.

Earling said the biggest change brought about by the law comes in the level of benefits, which will be greater than some previous plans. Higher benefits mean increased costs. What those costs will be depends on each consumer, Earling said. A younger person who has a plan with fewer benefits will see a more dramatic increase in cost than an older person with more comprehensive insurance, he said.

“Overall, more people than not are going to end up paying more for coverage,” Earling said.

Earling also noted that those new costs come with an asterisk. Many individuals could be eligible for federal subsidies to offset costs if they buy their Premera plan through the national health care exchange. However, the current state of the bungled exchange is making it exceptionally difficult for consumers to sign up.

“Obviously, heathcare.gov isn't working very well, so that's a challenge,” he said.

About 100,000 Alaskans have insurance coverage through Premera. Earling said those with plans through their employer will see some changes, though not to the same degree as those with individually purchased plans.

The cancellation notices are not limited to Alaska. Earling said millions of Premera members nationwide are receiving cancellation notices, too.

Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter @suzannacaldwell