Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield aims to phase out its “grandfathered” individual insurance plans that are not compliant with Affordable Care Act standards, company officials said Monday.

The move is expected to ultimately save consumers money as they transition to more affordable plans, while at the same time allowing Anthem to discontinue a coverage option that has become increasingly expensive and subject to steep premium increases.

People with grandfathered individual plans would be automatically switched to a similar one by Jan. 1, 2017, if they don’t purchase another plan.

The insurer filed a request with the Maine Bureau of Insurance last week that would affect about 3,800 people who still have grandfathered policies – plans that were purchased before the ACA went into effect in March 2010. The vast majority of all grandfathered plans sold in Maine were Anthem plans, according to bureau filings.

In most cases, the new plans will be less expensive than the grandfathered policies, said Anthem spokesman Rory Sheehan. Switching to the ACA plans will save the 3,800 on grandfathered plans a total of about $7.5 million in premiums, he said.

“For many legacy policyholders, they can already get an ACA plan that is less expensive and has richer benefits,” Sheehan said. That’s because those few remaining on the grandfathered plans tend to be sicker, older and in smaller risk pools. Insurers were prohibited from selling non-ACA plans starting in 2010.

The cost of the grandfathered plans also has been increasing – by 18 percent for 2016, on top of 13 percent for 2015.

Sheehan provided several examples in which people could save money – as much as $300 to $400 per month in premiums – while still having similar or lower deductibles and co-pays.

Under one scenario, a 42-year-old in Cumberland County paying a $707 monthly premium with a $5,000 deductible would see her premiums fall to $302 while having a $5,150 deductible.

Another group of non-ACA individual plans, called “grandmothered plans,” were those purchased between 2010 and Oct. 1, 2013, when people could first begin purchasing individual insurance on the marketplace at Federal law requires that those plans be phased out by 2017. About 3,150 people have an Anthem grandmothered plan.

Sheehan said that although Anthem will automatically switch the 7,000 or so with grandfathered and grandmothered plans to a similar, ACA-compliant individual plan, customers are encouraged to shop around and see what kind of plan best suits their needs, and to check if they qualify for premium subsidies. The subsidies are available for single people earning up to about $47,000 per year.

Some may not realize they qualify for subsidies in the health insurance marketplace, Sheehan said.

The ACA marketplace is where people who have no insurance – often part-time or self-employed workers – can obtain benefits. About 87 percent of the 75,000 Mainers who have purchased plans on the exchange qualify for a subsidy.

Emily Brostek, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, an Augusta-based health advocacy group, said the ACA outlawed high-deductible plans and plans that discouraged people from accessing preventive medicine – such as preventive screenings, primary care visits, and mental health and substance abuse treatment. Individual insurance plans often had high deductibles.

“The ACA redefined what is considered health insurance,” Brostek said. She said that before the ACA went into effect, people would purchase high-deductible plans thinking they had insurance coverage, only to find out that once they fell ill, most of the costs were borne by them and not the insurance company.

“People are not good at predicting what health needs they might have in the future,” she said.

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