CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will allow individuals with coverage renewal dates from Jan. 1, 2014 through Oct. 1, 2014 to keep their existing health plans for another year.

The extension option was offered last month by the federal government and Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) for what are considered non-grandfathered health plans under the Affordable Care Act. An estimated 50,000 individuals currently covered with BlueCross policies will be offered the extension option. These members will need to keep the exact same level of benefits and renewal dates in order to qualify for the extensions.

BlueCross will not offer small group customers (50 or fewer employees) with an extension option because the company had already provided an option for early renewal in 2013 to allow them to keep their existing plans through most of 2014.

“Many of our customers will now have the option to keep their health insurance,” said Bill Gracey, BlueCross president and CEO. “These plans have provided high-quality coverage that has met our customers’ needs. We expect many of them will welcome the opportunity to renew their coverage for another year.”

BlueCross individual members will have the option to renew their current plan for another year, or choose an Affordable Care Act-compliant plan, which may come with additional benefits and financial assistance, if eligible.

The individual plans that may be extended are considered as non-grandfathered health plans under the ACA and were required to be discontinued under the law in 2014.

The extension effectively moves the deadline forward, but plans renewing after Oct. 1, 2014 must meet all requirements of the ACA.

Extending existing individual plans will delay some of the more challenging consumer impacts of the ACA for another year and alleviate concerns of consumers who have had difficulty accessing the Marketplace. Customers who choose this one-year extension option will still need to move to ACA-compliant plans in 2015.

This extension option does not apply to consumers with coverage through any of the Cover Tennessee programs, which are operated by the State of Tennessee with BlueCross serving as a contracted administrator.

Current participants in Cover Tennessee programs are encouraged to shop for new coverage on the Marketplace and may be eligible for financial assistance. The deadline for enrolling in coverage to be effective Jan. 1, 2014 is Dec. 23.

BlueCross continues to offer current and future members an array of affordable insurance options, providing Marketplace plans in all 95 Tennessee counties – the only insurer in the state to do so.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.