Question: I read an article in USA today advising that people who do not qualify for subsidies were finding it easier to shop on authorized web-based agent sites. I took a look at www.cahba.com and found 11 CIGNA plans which are bronze/silver/gold compatible, but are not on CoveredCA. They are more expensive than Blue Shield's 2014 plans, but they appear to have the broadest choice of providers I have seen offered. Why are these CIGNA plans not on CoveredCA and is there any danger of being deemed not to have MEC if I buy one?
Answer: Health insurance carriers had to apply and compete to be accepted as qualified health plans offered by Covered California. CIGNA chose not apply, so their plans cannot only be offered off-exchange. However, CIGNA plans offered after January 1, 2014 must be ACA-complaiant. So there is no danger of them not having minimum essential coverage. You are right on about there being no advantage to consumers who are not subsidy eligible to buy through Covered California. In fact, there are more advantages to shopping off-exchange and dealing directly with the insurers. For example, there are more choices off-exchange, like CIGNA plans, and the application process takes only a fraction of the time it takes to enroll through Covered California.