Brokers and independent health agents across the New York area were contacted by Empire BlueCross/BlueShield today regarding radical changes coming to their small group health insurance portfolio of products. Actually, it’s more like “what’s left” that Empire will be offering for small businesses as beginning 4/1/2012, 75% of Empire’s small group product portfolio in New York will be dropped.

With EmblemHealth, Aetna, and Oxford showing no sign of drastic changes coming in their small group health plan portfolios, clearly, Empire BlueCross has simply decided to begin exiting the small group market, focusing instead on large groups (over 50 employees).

New York small business owners and benefits administrators should begin making preparations to shop their small group health options immediately as to avoid a disruption in coverage next April, and to take advantage of current prices and carrier offerings. If you have secured an Empire plan (that is being phased out) directly with the carrier, contact a Long Island New York insurance broker to begin researching other plan options…both what’s remaining with Empire, and with the other major insurance companies.

Will Oxford, Aetna, or EmblemHealth follow in Empire’s footsteps? That remains to be seen. But with the health insurance exchanges coming in 2014 (the result of the PPACA being passed last year), it’s difficult to know if the other major carriers will continue to participate in the small group health insurance market going forward. For now, they are.