Immediately following President Obama’s pledge Thursday that insurance carriers can offer a one-year renewal of plans that were cancelled for not complying with the ACA, industry members were already warning of numerous practical obstacles.
“I don’t believe it will be easy simply flipping the switch,” said Robin Frick, an agent at Combined Benefits Administrators in Madisonville, La. and past president of Louisiana Association of Health Underwriters. On Thursday just minutes after the announcement she said her first questions would be: “Have you spoken to the carriers and are they able to, within their states, go ahead and reactivate those plans? Did they yank them off their platforms entirely?”
A company with one of the biggest platforms, Aetna, fired off a statement from officials saying they “support efforts to allow people to keep what they have.” However, the insurer said that this will not be a simple process. “We will need cooperation and expedited approval from state regulators to remove barriers that would make it difficult to make this change in such a short period of time,” the company said. “State regulators will need to allow us to update our policies and secure appropriate rates so we can get these plans back in the market. “
Meanwhile, a trade group of health insurance plans maintains changing the rules now could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers.
“The only reason consumers are getting notices about their current coverage changing is because the ACA requires all policies to cover a broad range of benefits that go beyond what many people choose to purchase today,” said Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans in a statement released today.
“Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers. Premiums have already been set for next year based on an assumption of when consumers will be transitioning to the new marketplace. If due to these changes fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase coverage in the exchange, premiums will increase in the marketplace and there will be fewer choices for consumers.”
She called for additional steps to be taken “to stabilize the marketplace and mitigate the adverse impact on consumers.”
Aetna echoed the sentiments of AHIP. “We agree … action will need to be taken to address the destabilizing impact this change will have on the exchange marketplace,” the company said.
Frick says there are many steps that need to be taken, state-by-state, in order to carry out these renewals, and market changes and other factors could already have changed the prices of such plans. “Plans on a fully insured basis … are filed with the department of insurance, they regulate those plans, so if I’m no longer offering them, did I as a carrier go ahead and tell the state, ‘Hey, we’re not offering this anymore so there’s no sense in having this or regulating it,’” she says. “I wouldn’t be so flippant to say, ‘hey, yeah, now you can keep it,’ because there are other things involved – is the carrier willing to keep it?"
In a statement, Humana said it has been “educating people about the full range of options, including the ability to retain their current coverage, in accordance and coordination with state law. … We continue to work with the industry and the administration on viable solutions that make coverage accessible and affordable.”
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