What was that Obama said about keeping the health insurance you currently have?
he bare-bones health insurance policy that’s been the plan of choice for New Jerseyans who can’t afford something better is set to go away next year, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
And what those policy holders will be left with may be a choice among pricey, pricier and priciest.
About 106,000 people in the Garden State are insured under what are known as “basic and essential,” or B&E, health care plans, according to state data. Since 2003, all health insurers that operate in New Jersey’s individual health market have been required to sell these plans which, as their name implies, offer only a thin layer of coverage for things such as doctor’s office visits and procedures that don’t involve a hospital stay.
But while B&E plans were meant to help young families get coverage and stanch the drop of enrollment in the individual health market, their relatively low price — as little as a couple hundred dollars a month for some people — made them the most popular option for those who don’t get insurance through an employer or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid. About 71 percent of those covered by the individual health market have a B&E plan.
Soon no longer.
In addition to requiring most everyone to carry health insurance, the Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare — starting next year will force health care plans to cover certain essential services while capping the out-of-pocket fees people pay in addition to their premiums.
As a result, after Dec. 31, insurers won’t be able to sell or renew plans that don’t meet this litmus test. That includes B&E plans.
And these changes won’t come without a cost.
“In general, richer products translate into higher premiums,” said Larry Altman, vice president of the Office of Healthcare Reform at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, New Jersey’s largest health insurer.