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Arizona health insurance co-op to shut down Dec. 31

By Monica Grimaldo

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) –  

Arizona’s nonprofit health insurance co-op, Meritus Health Partners, has failed to come up with additional financial backing and plans to shut down all operations on Dec. 31.

This means the 59,000 Arizonans it now covers will need to find a new insurer by Dec. 15 if they want coverage on Jan. 1.

Current Meritus enrollees will be covered until Dec. 31, and their claims through that date are expected to be paid, according to Jack Cheevers of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Region 9. After that, their Meritus coverage will expire.

“These customers must enroll in new plans in order to have insurance coverage for 2016,” Cheevers said.

Cheevers said because Meritus customers have a special enrollment period, they can enroll as late as Dec. 31 for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2016.

“The final deadline for Meritus customers to sign up for 2016 coverage is March 1, 2016,” Cheevers said.

He also noted that the deadlines are different for other Marketplace customers. If you’re a Meritus customer and you need a new plan, start by visiting HealthCare.gov or CuidadodeSalud.gov.

Cheevers said about 48,000 Arizonans are enrolled in Meritus plans that were sold through the marketplace and another 10,000 Arizona residents are enrolled in plans that are sold outside of the Marketplace.

Jaron Branham is a 23-year-old Pima Community College student living in Tucson who was a Meritus customer. He said his plan was fairly simple and covered the basics, such as regular doctor visits, and said that Meritus closing did not come as a surprise.

“I first heard about it on the news, but I did receive a notification from Meritus saying that the plan was going away,” Branham said.

Branham said he has not enrolled in a new plan yet, but is working on getting help from his family to choose the right one.

Meritus CEO Tom Zumtobel’s announcement comes nearly a month after the state Department of Insurance suspended it from selling new policies or renewing current ones.

Federal officials also pulled Meritus policies from the health insurance Marketplace.

The nonprofit was one of 23 co-ops created under the Affordable Care Act to provide competition, but about half have now failed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved. 

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