UniCare to drop about 3,000 Virginians from health insurance plans

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

About 3,000 Virginians who have health insurance through UniCare, a private insurer, will lose that coverage Jan. 1, a UniCare spokesman said Monday. Most live in Northern Virginia and get their coverage through the individual market, officials said.

The termination will affect only health insurance. UniCare life, dental, vision, disability and Medicare coverage will not be affected.

Some policy holders have received a letter about the changes, dated June 24. Most notifications will hit mailboxes this week, spokesman Tony Felts said.

Felts said the company is leaving the Virginia market because of competitive pressures. About one-third of UniCare policyholders live in the coverage area of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Virginia and will receive a letter in the next few weeks with an offer to switch to Anthem, he said. Others may be qualified to receive coverage through other carriers that offer individual health insurance. UniCare and Anthem Blue Cross are subsidiaries of WellPoint.

Felts said UniCare's decision in Virginia is not related to recently enacted health-care legislation but is the result of competition from larger carriers, such as CareFirst and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield that "UniCare has been fighting for years."

UniCare announced in the fall that it was pulling out of its two biggest markets, Illinois and Texas, which have a total membership of about 400,000. The company's presence in Maryland and the District is comparable to that in Virginia. Felts said UniCare had no announcements about plans in other markets.

One unhappy resident is John Mountjoy, 58, of Annandale, a retiree who bought UniCare health insurance about five years ago. He received notification this weekend. He said he was told that residents like himself living east of Route 123 are not eligible to switch to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Representatives of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield could not be reached.

"It seems that insurance companies making major profits have no care at all in just dropping your health insurance," he said.

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