People in southwest Virginia signing up on Healthcare.gov only have one insurer to choose from

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Many people in our area insured under the Affordable Care Act may find their healthcare provider dropped them this year.

In the greater Lynchburg area, there are now 15,000 to 18,000 people who need to find a new plan, but when they go to look this month, they'll find only one insurer left.

In the Roanoke and New River valleys, that's Anthem. In the greater Lynchburg area it's the Piedmont Community Health Plan, or PCHP, which currently covers about 5,000 people. Staff say this year that number could triple.

"There is a potential for about 15,000 to 18,000 membership lives that could come to Piedmont Community Health Plan," Piedmont spokesperson Diane Ludwig said.

Ludwig said those thousands are what was left after Anthem and Optima Health pulled out of the Lynchburg market.

"That was going to leave those 15,000 to 18,000 people with no options if Piedmont decided to also pull out, and so ultimately it was a mission-based decision to offer that service," Ludwig said.

Piedmont said the other two insurers left because this year, the government stopped paying a portion of each policy for those making more than $48,000 a year, meaning insurers had to foot the bill and raise rates to make a profit. For Piedmont, that rate increase is 53 percent. That means for an identical high deductible plan, if you make below $48,000, the subsidy kicks in and you pay just under $200 a month, but over $48,000 and you're looking at $340 a month.

The added financial burdens of higher enrollment are now on Piedmont's shoulders, but Ludwig said, they're gearing up to face the challenge.

"It's the right thing to do to prepare for that and take steps, and that is hiring additional staff where that's going to be needed," Ludwig said.

If you would like to take a look at plans in your area, click here.