Santa Barbara will be one of only two counties in the state to have only one insurance provider, Blue Shield, offering insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act’s private insurance if Anthem Blue Cross pulls out next year, as it announced it would two weeks ago. The only other county in the state to be so bereft of competition is San Luis Obispo. Those two counties combined account for 14,000 private insurance enrollees who signed up for Anthem Blue Cross under the Affordable Care Act, two thirds of whom reside in Santa Barbara. Of those, 7,000 are patients with Sansum Medical Foundation.
Sansum spokesperson Jill Fonte said Sansum administrators met with Blue Shield negotiators last week to see about signing up those likely to be displaced by Anthem Blue Cross. Fonte said it’s premature to comment on the negotiations, which, she added, promise to be long and complex. The Anthem Blue Cross policies expire next January.
State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who is monitoring the situation, expressed confidence a deal will be worked out. “Sansum is on this. I am confident the 7,000 people who would otherwise be left out in the cold will have insurance.” As its reason to withdraw from portions of California, Anthem cited market uncertainty, which Jackson blamed on the repeal-and-replace initiatives of President Donald Trump. “You’ve got to point the finger where it belongs,” she said.