BlueCross BlueShield customers concerned after popular insurance plan eliminated

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - One of Chicago’s biggest insurance carriers dropped a bombshell on its customers in recent weeks.

BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois eliminated a popular plan, and now other carriers might soon be doing the same.

“Nine years ago I had breast cancer, and I was treated at Northwestern,” said insurance customer Georgette LePage.

LePage has had breast cancer, and a hip replacement. Now, she's concerned with replacing her BlueCross BlueShield insurance, because it won't cover the hospitals and doctors who she has been seeing.

“We would be switched from their PPO plan to another plan, which is Blue Choice, a Blue Choice plan, which would mean I could not be served by either Northwestern, Northshore or Rush hospital,” LePage said.

Doctors at Northwestern treated her cancer, while doctors at Northshore keep an eye on her hip. But like thousands of other BlueCross BlueShield customers, LePage was recently informed that her particular plan, Blue PPO, won't be offered next year.

“It was quite upsetting. And disturbing. And I started looking at new plans and none were going to fit my needs,” said LePage.

BlueCross BlueShield Illinois told FOX 32 the following in a statement:

"This is part of an overall national trend to move away from PPO plans that come with high costs to consumers and offer little in the way of coordinated care."

That explanation hasn’t eased the pain for many BlueCross BlueShield customers.

FOX 32: What have you been hearing from your customers?

“The customers have been very nervous. They’re scared. They're unsure what to do. And the problem is, there aren't many solutions,” said Rich Fahn of the Excell Benefit Group.

Insurance Broker Rich Fahn says some customers are setting up small businesses and calling themselves employees, because then they're still eligible for the  Blue PPO. Others, he says, are shopping around while waiting for more options to open up.

“You're making a one year election. You're not making a lifetime decision. Don't be paralyzed by too much analysis. Paralysis by analysis is a killer,” Fahn said.

Call centers like the one at GoHealth have been swamped since November 1, which is when people  started enrolling in plans for 2016. GoHealth's Ryan Smolek says lots of carriers are making changes to control costs and remain competitive.

“So instead of kind of giving you the carte blanche ‘go wherever you want,’ they're trying to target people into certain hospitals. So that's a kind of normal thing for hospitals to come into and out of network every year,” Smolek said.

Fans of Northwestern Medicine, though, do have options. A spokesperson says Land of Lincoln and Coventry both include Northwestern.

As for LePage, she found a plan through her domestic partner, who's covered by his employer.