CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming’s second-largest health insurance company, which went all in with the new federal health care program, is closing down, forcing about 13,000 of its customers across the state to find new health insurance.
WINhealth, which has been in business since 1996, will shut down Dec. 31, the state Department of Insurance announced Wednesday.
The state will help people and groups covered by WINhealth plans to find new insurance by Jan. 1 and will see to it that outstanding claims are processed until conclusion, state Insurance Commissioner Tom Glause said.
People and groups with WINhealth should not panic, Glause said.
“We will see an orderly wind-down of the business,” he said. “During that period, we will also be trying to do an orderly transfer of these policies to other carriers.”
The annual open enrollment period for individual policy holders to sign up for health insurance or move to a different insurance provider begins Nov. 1.
Individual WINhealth customers should sign up with a new company by Dec. 15, Glause said.
Wyoming has just three other licensed insurance carriers offering individual coverage.
The news comes nearly two weeks after WINhealth announced it would pull out of the health care exchange program under the federal Affordable Care Act. About 8,400 people in Wyoming were covered by WINhealth under the program.
WINhealth spokeswoman Caitlin Rooney said the federal program both was slow and deficient with helping the company cover people who signed up for the exchange.
WINHealth was expecting about $5 million in federal reimbursements for medical care that the company covered in 2014 under the exchange program, but it was told Oct. 1 that it could expect only $638,000 through the Affordable Care Act.
WINhealth is one of two health insurance providers participating in the federal health care exchange program. The other is Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“We took on a big risk when we decided that we were going to participate in the federal exchange,” Rooney said. “And we went all in on that.”
WINhealth’s main customer base before the federal program was selling health insurance policies to groups and employers, involving about 5,000 people altogether.
Glause said WINhealth almost tripled its customer base in two years by selling plans to individuals who signed up through the government exchange program. “The two biggest causes of insurance company failure are rapid growth and undercapitalization, and those are certainly both prevalent here at WINhealth,” he said.
Glause said his department and federal officials are working to find another insurer to participate in the Wyoming exchange. It’s also possible that WINhealth could be purchased by someone else, he said.
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