After close to six weeks of frustration, confusion and ongoing pressure on the Obama administration, the country's largest health insurance carrier, Blue Cross Blue Shield, announced this week that existing individual customers will, in fact, be able to renew their current healthcare coverage plans.  This comes on the heels of 186,000 Illinois members who were notified in October that their plan would be canceled, because they did not comply with the Affordable Care Act.

This, of course, was in direct contrast to what was initially promised during the sales phase of Obamacare, when consumers were repeatedly assured that if they were happy with their current healthcare plans, they wouldn’t need to do a thing.  And in light of this week's announcement, many are still left wondering if there's a catch.   

Why So Much Confusion?

If you've been following the progress of the Affordable Care Act, you know that it's been a far cry from smooth sailing.  After a dismally embarrassing rollout on October 1st, followed by unceasing problems with the Healthcare Marketplace website and a country split on the system's future, it seemed inevitable that something significant was needed to garner favor among an already discouraged public.  

The recent announcement to allow members to keep their existing plan, comes at a time when many simply don’t know what to make of so many sweeping changes.  Considering that we're in the vortex of open enrollment season, there are still those who remain unsure of how their coverage will change, and what if anything is needed to keep things as they were.   

Who Can Keep their Healthcare Plan?

As of right now (this information has literally been changing daily), those customers who have individual health insurance plans are being allowed to keep the plan they had in 2013.  The details are still coming out, but it appears that the majority of Blue Cross Blue Shield's Illinois members will be able to renew and extend their current plan for up to one year.  What happens after that is still to be determined.

What we do know, and this should come as a shock to no one, is that those who are allowed to keep their plans will likely see an increase in premiums.  The carrier states that some members may experience a premium increase, which is really a less threatening way of letting the public know that their rates are, once again, about to go up.    

What to Expect in 2014

When you look back at just the past two months, taking into consideration just how much has changed in that short time, it's really anyone's guess as to where we will be a year from now.  It's worth noting, though, that a year from now, most politicians will be enveloped in mid-term elections.  If the past is any indicator of what to expect, are we really to believe that those tasked with managing the system, are going to be willing to put their re-elections on hold in order to deal with health insurance premiums?

Finally, keep in mind that this is really just a one-year extension.  There has been no mention of whether or not people will be forced to buy new plans after 2014, and it's still unclear how this decision will affect some families and small businesses.  For now, at least some can breathe a sigh of relief that they will not have to start from scratch shopping for health insurance.

Renewing Your IL Health Insurance Plan

If you're in Illinois or the Chicago area, and need advice on the best way to go about renewing your healthcare plan, Premier can help.  There are no fees for our services, and we can help with all health reform-related matters.  Whether you need to renew an existing plan, purchase a new policy, or sign up on their health insurance marketplace, call us at 800-369-0287 to speak with one of our local agents.  You can also send us an e-mail with your questions.