Jim O'Neal

Jim O'Neal

For The Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON — For Jim O’Neal and some other small-business owners, there’s nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act.

O’Neal, a Bloomington-Normal home builder, has purchased health insurance for himself, his wife and their two children. This year’s policy with BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois has a monthly premium of $426.66, a family deductible of $5,200, with an out-of-pocket family maximum of $6,000.

On Oct. 15, he received a letter from BlueCross that, effective Jan. 1, that plan would no longer be available because it didn’t comply with the Affordable Care Act.

O’Neal, of Bloomington, wasn’t alone.

Jeff Gilmore, president of Benefit Planning Associates in Bloomington, said 85 percent of the company’s individual clients received notices that they needed to change plans to comply with the new federal law.

For example, some individuals didn’t have maternity or pediatric dental coverage because they didn’t need it, Gilmore said. But both are required as part of the act’s focus on preventive health care.

Some people who received cancellation notices purchased their own health insurance because they’re self-employed, added Gilmore.

“I was disappointed for a lot of reasons,” said O’Neal. “I liked the way things were working with my plan.”

O’Neal was upset, not with his insurer, but with the law.

“We were told we could keep our existing plans,” he said.

BlueCross presented several alternate plans and O’Neal chose one with a $644.14-a-month rate, a family deductible of $10,000 and an out-of-pocket family maximum of $12,500.

“It was rate shock. I thought, ‘What’s affordable about the Affordable Care Act?’” he recalled.

Then President Barack Obama announced Nov. 14 that insurance companies can offer policyholders the option of renewing their plans for 2014, even if they don’t meet all requirements of the act. BlueCross informed O’Neal he could extend, for one year, his existing policy that would have a rate increase of about $25 a month.

“But I’d already signed up (for the new one) and the clock’s ticking to have all insurance signups by Dec. 23, he said.

BlueCross wants O’Neal to fill out a request to withdraw his enrollment form so he can get off his new policy and stay on his existing one. He plans to do that with Gilmore’s assistance.

All Benefit Planning Associates clients who received cancellation notices have since received notices that they’ll be able to keep their existing plans, Gilmore said. Health Alliance rates are increasing 21.8 percent across the board and BlueCross rate increases vary, he said.

While O’Neal appreciates the extension, he knows it’s temporary.

“Why have everyone go through this (cancellations) and then change your mind, knowing that this is just a temporary reprieve?’ he asked. “The affordable health care act is being subsidized on the backs of small business owners like myself. People with individual policies are getting hammered.”


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