December 26, 2013

Obama’s reversal on health insurance cancellations draws mixed response

Older policies are being allowed to continue in 36 states, while some insurance companies choose to discontinue the old policies that don’t comply with the new federal mandates.

By Emery P. Dalesio
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

The shadow of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is cast on a wall as she speaks at the Community Health and Social Services Center in Detroit last month. President Barack Obama’s decision to allow people could keep health insurance policies slated for cancellation under the federal health overhaul has gotten a mixed response from insurers, state regulators and consumers.

2013 Associated Press File Photo

Sabrina Corlette, project director at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University, warns that Obama’s decision last month could allow younger people with relatively few health problems to stay on bare-bones policies. That could lead to higher premiums in 2015 to offset insurers’ cost of covering people with more health problems, she said.

Still, even before Obama’s announcement last month, a pathway existed for many consumers to hang onto policies that didn’t conform to the ACA requirements, at least for a brief period of time.

Many states allowed insurers to offer early renewals to non-conforming policies, but some of those will expire on March 31. Early renewals are allowing 60-year-old artist Marlys Dietrick of San Antonio and her 21-year-old son to stay in their old policies.

Dietrick jumped at the chance when Humana offered in October to renew her expiring, high-deductible policy early for $315 a month – an increase of about $15. She and her son both must spend $7,000 per year on medical bills to meet a deductible before the company starts paying.

Her insurer told her it would charge $705 a month for a similar policy that met the new standard required under the health care law. She earns too much to qualify for tax subsidies.

“I’m not saying I loved my insurance. I’m just saying I was able to keep the costs down by being able to tailor it to me and my needs,” she said. “I’m 60. I don’t need maternity. I don’t need pediatric. I’m healthy, I don’t need drug coverage. I don’t need mental health. There’s like five things that allowed me to keep my costs down. I was able to pick-and-choose.”

Consumers Union health care reform analyst Lynn Quincy said staying with an existing policy is a natural starting point. But renewing an existing policy with a high deductible or excluding types of coverage needed later may not turn out to be the best deal, she said.

“If your old coverage continued, that’s fine. But look at your other options before enrolling, because you can’t be turned down now” for pre-existing health conditions, she said.

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