- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Health insurance giants Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and Health Net have announced they will stop offering federal marketplace plans in Maricopa and Pinal counties.

Nearly 58,000 health-plan enrollees will have to switch plans next year when the insurers disappear from the marketplace, according to the Arizona Republic reported (https://bit.ly/29aIdlN ).

Blue Cross Blue Shield officials cited financial losses of $185 million on individual marketplace plans in 2014 and 2015, prompting their departure.

“We had to strike a balance between how we serve the market and the losses these plans incurred,” Rich Boals, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield, said in a statement. “After months of working through scenarios, we believe we have found a mix of plan types and benefits changes that will make these ACA plans sustainable for at least another year.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield will still offer plans in Arizona’s 13 other counties and could be the only option in the more rural counties of Cochise, Graham, Gila, Greenlee, La Paz, Santa Cruz, Yavapai and Yuma. In addition, the insurance company will have five different individual and family plans available in Pima County.

Health Net officials declined to discuss their marketplace plans for Arizona next year.

The news comes after UnitedHealthcare and Humana announced plans to exit Arizona’s marketplace altogether in 2017.

Aetna, Cigna, Health Choice Insurance Co. and Phoenix Health Plans have filed documents with insurance regulators to sell marketplace plans in parts of Arizona next year. The Department of Insurance and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services must review and approve those filings before enrollment begins this fall.

The majority of Arizona residents get health coverage through an employer or government health insurers such as Medicare, Medicaid or the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The most recent data shows about 135,000 Arizonans were in marketplace plans as of Dec. 31 and more than 40 percent of them will have to find new insurers.

Though the marketplace is shrinking, consumer advocates say there will be plenty of options for Maricopa and Pinal county residents when enrollment begins this fall.

“Everybody inside the insurance industry said it would take a while to shake out,” said Allen Gjersvig, the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers’ director of navigator and enrollment services. “It is part of that natural process as insurance companies try to figure out how to offer a menu of policies and meet membership and financial expectations.”

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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