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Hall residents in federal exchange wont have Blue Cross option in 2018

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Healthcare Plan won’t be available in 2018 for Hall County residents insured through the Affordable Care Act federal exchange.

Also, those who have individual policies would have to shop elsewhere.

“So, even those individuals who purchased policies and got the Point of Service network that is in-network with (Northeast Georgia Medical Center) will be affected,” said Brett Fowler of Gainesville insurance firm Turner, Wood & Smith.

However, “those that have employer-sponsored coverage, whether it be small group or large group, will not be affected,” he said, adding that some 200,000 Blue Cross members will lose coverage in Georgia.

Beginning Jan. 1, the insurer will offer marketplace plans in 85 mostly rural Georgia counties “that might not otherwise have access to health insurance coverage,”  Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia President Jeff Fusile said in a statement on the company’s website.

This year, the exchange offers Hall residents plans from just Alliant and Blue Cross and Blue Shield, down from five in the marketplace in 2016.

Alliant is the only one of those two that includes Northeast Georgia Medical Center as in-network.

In Hall, 17.6 percent of residents remained uninsured in 2014, according to census figures, or about 33,281 people. But that’s down from 20.7 percent, or 35,548 people, in 2013.

The county’s uninsured rate, however, is higher than averages for the state, at 15.8 percent, and nation, at 10.4 percent.

“For more than seven decades, we’ve been proud to offer affordable health plans that give Georgians access to quality health care,” Fusile said. “In 2014, when the Affordable Care Act started, we created a new set of quality, affordable health plans to offer consumers through the (exchange).

“But the market for these plans has become unstable. And with federal rules and guidance changing, it’s no longer possible for us to offer those plans.”

Open enrollment on the marketplace runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

“Affected members will receive an official notice that their plan is ending, along with information on options for next year,” Fusile said.