CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Highmark officials say they are not sure how the recently announced changes to the Affordable Care Act will be implemented.
President Obama on Thursday said insurance companies may continue to offer health plans that otherwise would have been canceled as the ACA was rolled out. This change to the federal law is only in effect for about a year, through Dec. 31, 2014.
"It is unclear how these proposed changes can be put into effect," Highmark said in a statement released Thursday evening. "Many of the details of the federal proposals to change the Affordable Care Act are still in development, including the operational and financial implications to insurance companies."
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is the state's largest insurance company -- and the only one to offer plans on the state's Health Insurance Marketplace.
The federal health-care law requires that insurance plans offer a specific set of essential benefits, including emergency care, mental health and maternity care. If they don't, the plans can be "grandfathered" in, as long as they have existed continuously since before the law was enacted and have had no changes.
Those insurance plans that have changed since the law was enacted are not allowed under the new law and eventually will be canceled.
According to Highmark, 8,300 individual-policy holders in West Virginia would have had their plans canceled by January because of the ACA -- and they still will be affected after Dec. 31, 2014.
Highmark already had planned to give its individual-policy holders the option to renew their policies in December, thereby extending the coverage they have until December 2014. Those affected also can enroll in a new insurance plan on the exchange, but problems with the federal website, healthcare.gov, are making that challenging, Highmark said.
"Certain consumers whose policies are being discontinued would qualify for federal subsidies and would need to obtain coverage through the federal exchanges if they intend to secure financial assistance," the company said in its statement. "However, other consumers with discontinued policies are not likely to qualify for subsidies and can immediately secure the very same quality, health care coverage at the same rates as our products on the federal exchange by coming directly to Highmark West Virginia to enroll.