State says Moda members should keep paying premiums

Lori Wing-Heier, the director of the Alaska Division of Insurance, discusses the circumstances of Moda Health's departure from Alaska's individual health insurance market, Jan. 29, 2016. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
Lori Wing-Heier, the director of the Alaska Division of Insurance, discusses the circumstances of Moda Health’s departure from Alaska’s individual health insurance market, Jan. 29, 2016. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The state division of insurance is working to reassure Moda health members today. The health insurer announced yesterday it’s pulling out of the individual market in Alaska and Oregon. That’s after both states put the company under supervision, citing the company’s financial condition. The action prevents Moda from selling new policies or renewing plans on group plans.

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At a news conference in Juneau today, division director Lori Wing-Heier said she advises Moda members on individual and group plans to keep paying their premiums.

“If at such point, that Moda is put into receivership, and we feel that they are unable to pay the claims that they are incurring, we will take the next step and work with the consumers, the guarantee association in Alaska, Premera and CMS to transition those plans so the consumers are not impaired,” she said.

Wing-Heier said Moda representatives are flying to Juneau Monday to meet with her and other state officials.

A Moda spokesperson declined an interview request but wrote in an email the company hopes to salvage its small and large group business in Alaska.

Jonathan King is a vice president at Northern Economics in Anchorage. His firm, which includes 15 people, has been covered under a Moda plan since 2008. The policy renewed in January, but King is taking the news of Moda’s financial struggle in stride.

“Did it surprise me yesterday?” he said. “Yes. Am I concerned about it? Yes. On the other hand, things go up and down and you just keep on chugging along.”

When Moda entered the Alaska health insurance market several years ago, the company provided much needed competition for Premera Alaska, King said. He said Moda has offered good service to the firm’s employees.

Shopping for health insurance is one of the most stressful aspects of operating a small business in the state, King said.

“This is one of the curses of living in Alaska.” King said. “We have a very thin health insurance market, our health insurance costs are extraordinarily high and also the cost of medical care is extraordinarily high so it’s definitely a challenge every year from a business perspective.”

King hopes Northern Economics will have the option to renew with Moda next year, assuming the company can come up with an adequate business plan.

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Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie