21,400 Iowans in Health Insurance Limbo After Wellmark Pulls Individual ACA Plans

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IOWA  --  21,400 Iowans are now in healthcare limbo after Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced they will no longer carry individual plans in the ACA marketplace.

The decision does not affect those on a plan provided by their company, or individual plans that were started prior to 2014.

The move by Wellmark impacts people like Gail Orcutt, who taught school for 33 years before retiring.

“The last district I worked in had a rule that you couldn't continue on their insurance unless you worked there 10 years, and I had worked there for six,” said Orcutt.

She says her individual Wellmark plan has literally been a life saver. She survived lung cancer brought on by radon.

“I specifically chose this policy because I get to choose my own doctors, and that includes trips to the Mayo Clinic,” said Orcutt.

With her radiation treatment costing the insurance company over $14,000 a month, Gail worries what another policy would and would not cover.

“It's going to eat up our retirement savings is what it's going to do...or...worst case, we're going to move,” she said.

In a press release, Wellmark said they made the move because they lost $90 million over the last three years.

The Iowa Insurance Division says this happened because, under the Affordable Care Act, older Americans were signing up for individual plans, and younger, healthier people were trying to save money by not getting covered.

“We're requiring that younger folks essentially subsidize folks that are still working and may have income, and in some cases may have higher income, but because of their age are a higher risk,” said Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen.

Ommen says these issues could be solved locally by de-federalizing healthcare.

“We would like the responsibilities returned to the states because we know our market here in Iowa, we know our demographics, and so historically we've been able to address some of the more significant issues," he said.

Orcutt though, says she would rather companies address their customers than their revenue.

“I would ask them to have some compassion, look at their bottom line and try and find a way to help us,” she said.

Two other companies, Aetna and Medica, currently offer individual plans in Iowa. However, neither company could confirm their plans for 2018, and Medica says they are “carefully considering their options" for their 2018 policies.

The Iowa Insurance Division says they will have a better idea of the companies’ intentions no later than June.