People who get health insurance through the Nebraska Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool are being urged to sign up by Nov. 1 for a new insurance plan offered through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

NECHIP coverage will end Dec. 31 as the program, a safety net, will no longer be needed once coverage becomes available under the federal health law.

Pool officials expect that the approximately 3,200 policyholders will be able to apply for new plans starting Oct. 1 through an insurance exchange. Applying by Nov. 1 will ensure uninterrupted coverage, according to Victor Kensler, NECHIP board chairman. He said NECHIP will cease to provide coverage Dec. 31 but will continue to process claims for costs incurred before the end of the year.

NECHIP, created by the state Legislature in 1985, provides health insurance to Nebraskans who can’t otherwise afford it or who have been denied because of a medical condition, and who are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare.

All U.S. citizens under the age of 65 are obligated under the federal law to purchase at least the basic level of insurance offered. Under the new law, all individuals, including NECHIP policyholders, will have guaranteed access to health insurance. Individuals will have no maximum benefit limits for physical or mental illness and may qualify for a payment subsidy based on financial need.

By purchasing an ACA-approved plan, Kensler said, NECHIP policyholders will no longer face lifetime limits on their health insurance coverage and they will no longer pay premiums based on a 50 percent surcharge over the cost of policies offered by other health insurers in the state. Kensler said he expects insurance costs to fall for NECHIP policyholders.

NECHIP has already notified policyholders of the change through the mail and on its website, but in coming weeks will send certified letters. Kensler said he is concerned that some policyholders, especially those who are chronically ill, may not be aware of the change and could end up with no coverage.

“We just want to make sure that we get the information out to them and that they are opening their mail, that they are looking at the website,” Kensler said.

For more information, NECHIP policyholders can contact Coventry Health and Life Insurance Co. at 855-247-5201 or pool administrator Michelle Dunlap at mldunlap@cvty.com.

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