Category: ACA and Policy, Cost of Healthcare, Health Insurance

The Erosion of Choice

If you are like me, you get really irritated when somebody makes a choice for you that you feel perfectly capable of making for yourself. Guess I was just raised and wired to research, contemplate and act on my own choices.

Sometimes we lose the ability to choose over something simple. I was in the grocery store the other day, looking for this wonderful stuff I like to add to ground meat to make sloppy joes (called “Not-So-Sloppy Joes” in our home). I think this particular brand is the best one, and we’ve eaten it around our house for decades. It vanished from the grocery store one day. When I inquired about it, the merchant said, “Well, it’s more expensive and packed in glass jars, which makes it too hard for us to handle. So we replaced it with our house brand and others that come in cans.”

And just like that, my choice went away. Couldn’t find my preferred brand in the other grocery stores, either. I liked it so much better, and the glass jars gave it a much-less-metallic taste. But it’s gone now, and I think that trend caught on because the manufacturer (a VERY large food company) stopped making it entirely. I hate losing choices that work, don’t you?

Bye Bye Bridge Blue

On Sept. 1, 2024, another choice is going to be removed from the health insurance market for individual coverage, thanks to a broad, sweeping regulatory change from the federal government.

For the past five or six years, we’ve been able to offer a high-quality individual health plan designed for people who don’t have the most dire health needs. We call it Bridge Blue, and it is Short-Term Limited-Duration Insurance (STLDI). As the name implies, this product isn’t meant to be a plan you stay on for years. It’s a bridge designed to get you through transitional phases between jobs, finishing school and starting your career, or other situations where you have a limited amount to spend on insurance and don’t need a lot of healthcare services. The nature of our Bridge Blue policies, issued under Blue Cross, meant they could be sold for HALF what insurance costs on before tax credits.

In 2016, the Obama administration limited STLDI plans to three months to try to get more people on the 12-month plans sold on In 2018, the Trump administration changed the rules to let people stay on short-term plans for 364 days (one day short of a full year) and renew up to two times. You may remember I predicted a few months back that your choices would be reduced. I take no pleasure in being right about this at all. Would have loved to be wrong, in fact.

In the interest of transparency, we are very open about the benefits you get – and don’t get – on STLDI plans. We’re not trying to fool anyone. Today, and right up to Sept. 1, 2024, you can buy Bridge Blue and keep it for 11 months, and then potentially renew it twice more if you stay relatively healthy during that time. But, if you’ve had a big change in your health status, e.g. getting diagnosed with a long-term condition like diabetes that will require ongoing medication and doctor’s appointments, our trained advisers will be honest and tell you that Bridge Blue is no longer a good fit.

By federal order, starting on Sept. 1, 2024, these policies can only be sold and kept for 90 days, up to a maximum of 120 days, to allow for changes going into and out of the policy. That’s a far cry from 33 months of coverage, as is the case now. A little over 2,000 Louisianians are using our Bridge Blue coverage right now as a quality, reasonably priced alternative to other insurance.

Why Do We Have to Say Bon Voyage?

That begs the question, WHY is the current administration changing the rules for STLD health plans? The Biden Administration wants everyone to sign up for more comprehensive, qualified plans from Plans that customers with short-term healthcare coverage needs will need to pay more for and stay on longer.

Proclaiming this “junk” insurance the U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services in Washington, D.C. is bringing the hammer down on plans like Bridge Blue. As if we would ever put the Blue Cross logo on anything considered “junk” insurance. Nonsense.

The Straight Talk is, if you are already holding a Bridge Blue policy, you may still qualify for the 11-month extensions if you are happy with your plan. Purchasing on Sept. 1, 2024, and beyond, however, will look very differently. And no, we would NEVER consider selling “junk” insurance! If we went to the trouble to create it and market a product, you can bet it’s the best in its class, and the best we can build under the rules. But I’m betting you already knew that.

Posted on: April 19, 2024

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