Chamber health insurance ending for 1,400 state companies, as enrollment for federal exchange opens [The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City]
(Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 02--While the marketplace for small employers to buy group medical insurance officially opens Friday, some 1,400 companies insured through the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce learned this week they would have to look elsewhere for coverage because the chamber's group plan fails to meet the requirements of new health reform laws.
Chamber President Roy Williams called the demise of the chamber's group insurance program "very, very unsettling."
"It was a good program, otherwise 1,400 companies wouldn't be on it," Williams said.
Chamber Choice was essentially "outlawed," he said, because it didn't cover all 10 essential health benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act, including emergency care, lab services, maternal and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse, prescription drugs and pediatric dental and vision care.
Chamber Choice members on Friday are being presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma with 26 plan options. Companies that commit to a new policy by Dec. 1 will be covered through December 2014, Williams said.
"Some may decide not to offer insurance," Williams said. "Then their employees' only option will be to buy insurance on the (individual) exchange," he said.
Jenna Manning Harlow, an accountant with Te-Ray Inc., said her family's oil and gas company that employs four people has been insured since 2003 by Chamber Choice insurance through Blue Cross.
"We were completely happy with the coverage we had," Harlow said. But Te-Ray, which pays $4,700 a month to cover 100 percent of its employees' premiums, is bracing itself for increased costs, she said.
Harlow said she looked into SHOP (Small-business Health Options Program), but was told Te-Ray doesn't qualify for tax credits because the firm employs family members and has an average annual wage of more than $50,000. The equation involves adding corporate salaries and dividing by the number of employees.
Blue Cross will have SHOP plans available in all 77 counties, spokeswoman Ashley Hudgeons said. CommunityCare will offer plans in 16 counties, mainly the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas, said Greg Burn, senior vice president of marketing. GlobalHealth spokeswoman Tayla Harris said the carrier will offer plans in the metro and "scattered across the state, where we have clinics or think it's a good fit," including Wagoner, Carter, Sequoyah, Cherokee, Delaware, Pontotoc, McIntosh and Ottawa counties.
Kathy Trotter Bergman, president of Fort Gibson-based Ear Plug Superstore, which employs 10, checked out SHOP but opted for a renewal, with a small increase, to its current policy with Blue Cross, she said.
"In December 2014, we'll evaluate expected premium increases against what we can get in the exchange," Bergman said. "Perhaps, they'll have the glitches fixed by then," she said.
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