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12 companies to offer health plans through state exchange in 2018

Twelve companies are offering individual coverage in a qualified health plan through the NY State of Health insurance exchange in at least one county statewide for 2018, two fewer than in 2017, according to the state Health Department.

Five insurers are offering small-business coverage through the exchange, a decline from eight, and 15 are offering Essential plans, an increase from the year before.

The Essential plans are designed for lower-income residents who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

For the qualified plans that consumers can buy on the exchange, the two companies that dropped out – Affinity Health Plan and CareConnect – did not do business in Western New York.

Locally, in Niagara, Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, four insurers are offering individual coverage in a qualified health plan on the exchange: BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Fidelis Care New York, Independent Health and Univera Healthcare. In Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties, the four insurers are joined by MVP Health Plan. Those are the same options as last year.

Three companies are selling small-business insurance coverage through the exchange for 2017 in five counties in the region: Niagara, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Erie. In addition to those insurers, MVP Health Plan is also selling in Gensee, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

In the region's largest counties, the Essential plan will be available in Erie from Univera, Fidelis Care, BlueCross BlueShield, YourCare Health Plan, United Healthcare, Independent Health, and Wellcare; and in Niagara from Univera, Fidelis, United and Wellcare.

Open enrollment begins Nov. 1 and will continue through Jan. 31, 2018.

“NY State of Health remains strong, offering consumers in every corner of the state a choice of health plan options in 2018. In many cases, after tax credits, many consumers will find that their premiums will be lower in 2018 than they are today," NY State of Health Executive Director Donna Frescatore said in a statement.

More than 3.6 million people were enrolled in insurance through the exchange as of the end of 2017, according to the state. The insurance exchanges in New York and in other states across the country arose out of the Affordable Care Act. They were meant to fill the gap for people who don’t receive employer-sponsored health insurance, who earn too much to receive Medicaid and who are too young to receive coverage through Medicare, the federal health program for 65 and older.

Frescatore said the state will offer enrollment assistance to consumers, despite the Trump administration significantly cutting funds for advertising and outreach.

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