Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City dropping out of Affordable Care Act

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COLUMBIA - Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City announced it will withdraw from the Affordable Care Act starting in 2018. 

The move is expected to affect nearly 70,000 customers in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. It does not affect people in the Columbia area, but will affect Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers in Pettis, Saline, and Benton counties.

Christy Stretz, a Federal Insurance Navigator for the Access Project, said this is a product of there being large uncertainty in the market. 

"I think the uncertainty with the law certainly gives insurance companies a little uneasiness and don't know exactly what is coming," Stretz said. 

Stretz said insurance companies must have their rates out by July and until the rates are out, there is no saying whether more companies will stay in the ACA exchange or pull out.

She stressed it is important people know the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land. Stretz said some people become confused because of the law Congressional Republicans are trying to pass to repeal and replace the ACA. 

Stretz said the new health care bill, which was passed by the House and is currently being looked at in the Senate, makes things complicated. 

"People that are covered now, I encourage them to get out and use their insurance," Stretz said. 

She said it is important for people to remember the rug cannot be pulled out from under them right away because insurance is a contract. Companies must cover customers through the end of the year. 

Open enrollment for health insurance is shorter this year, lasting about six weeks from November 1st through December 15th. 

Stretz said she encourages people to do research once companies put out their plans and rates on what is available in Missouri and plan accordingly. 

The rising cost of health insurance through the ACA is one of the reasons Blue Cross and Blue Shield cited for dropping out of the exchange. 

Stretz points to customers with preexisting conditions having to be covered under the ACA as one reason insurance prices are going up. 

"It stands to reason that you have a pool of pretty sick people, so that is going to drive rates up," Stretz said. 

Missouri not taking the Medicare expansion also raises rates, and Stretz said a lot of people fall in the Medicaid gap in Missouri. 

Stretz said it comes down to a choice. 

"I guess it is a philosophy, what is more important to you or to the voters and to our representatives and congressmen, what is more important to them the bottom dollar or people's health," Stretz said.