FARGO (AP) - Thousands of North Dakota residents who buy health insurance on their own will see their current policies canceled or changed beginning in January as new regulations take effect under the federal health care law.
Health insurance companies have already sent out cancellation notices in North Dakota and other states, routing customers to new plans that comply with rules in the Affordable Care Act, the Forum reports. Those rules make some previously optional coverage areas mandatory and set limits on out-of-pocket expenses.
Plans that do not meet those new regulations will be canceled or upgraded.
About 42,500 North Dakota residents, or roughly 6 percent of the state, were covered by individual plans at the end of 2013, according to state insurance records.
In North Dakota, the health care changes will wipe out virtually all the 2,500 individual plans carried by Medica and Sanford Health.
Blue Cross Blue Shield North Dakota, the state's largest insurer, covered more than 32,000 through individual plans last year, and would not disclose how many of its customers' current plans will be discontinued. But Judd Wagner, chief marketing officer, said the changes would affect a very small percentage of its customers, including those enrolled through employer groups.
Assurant Health, which covered more than 4,000 North Dakotans last year, also would not disclose how many of its plans will be phased out.
Sanford Health sent cancellation letters to about 450 policyholders.
Of those shuttled to new coverage, some may find more affordable plans. The federal government is offering subsidies to shoppers on the new online health insurance marketplace whose income falls between 138 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
But with maternity and mental health coverage now required, and with new limits on out-of-pocket expenses and other new regulations that bolster coverage, some rates are rising sharply.
About 2,000 Medica policyholders were sent letters staring in September, and most of them will see higher premiums if they choose to upgrade their plan, spokesman Greg Bury said.
Lidgerwood farmer Lucas Siemieniewski got a letter informing that his monthly premium would jump from about $481 to $1,012 if he kept his family of four covered. He said his deductibles and co-pays would increase.
"I wasn't very happy," he told the newspaper. "It's going to be tough."
Siemieniewski would qualify for subsidies if he buys coverage through the federal marketplace, but he's not sure what he will do.
"I've never taken any type of assistance in my life, so I don't feel real comfortable doing that," he said.