Health Alliance

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois consumers shopping for health insurance for 2016 will see familiar companies, newcomers and health plans with narrow networks when the marketplace opens in less than two weeks. The Illinois Department of Insurance on Tuesday announced the companies approved to sell plans on the exchange where about 297,000 Illinoisans now get coverage. Aetna is participating again after taking a year off. Blue Cross Blue Shield is back.

  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and several other insurers are making initial double-digit rate increase requests for some Illinois health plans for 2016. The federal government on Monday posted companies' proposed rate increases of 10 percent or more. The rates are under review and won't be final until October.  Illinois requests are as high as 42 percent for a plan offered by Time Insurance Company. Blue Cross is requesting a 38 percent increase for one plan.

A Health Alliance spokeswoman says criteria regarding enrollment numbers kept the insurance carrier from offering Medicare Advantage plans to retirees. The Urbana-based insurer learned this week that it was excluded for retiree plans starting in January, while the state directed those 15,000 people to four other carriers. Spokeswoman Jane Hayes says Health Alliance was required to have one or more employers who have a minimum of 1,000 participants enrolled in Medicare Advantage. She says it’s hard to find an employer with that many retirees in any benefit plan, noting more employers are dropping health care coverage for retirees: