EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 11, 2014

Anthem makes decision on health plan renewals


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — About 10,000 New Hampshire residents whose individual insurance policies don’t comply with President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law will get a chance to renew them for another year.

The Obama administration in March announced a two-year extension for individual policies that don’t meet requirements of the new health care law — as long as states and insurance companies allow it.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the dominant player in New Hampshire’s individual health care market, recently decided to offer the extension for only one additional year for anyone whose policy is set to expire between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1, including the 4,600 policyholders who took advantage of an earlier one-year reprieve, the company’s lawyer, Maria Proulx, told The Associated Press.

“As the only carrier in the state who has chosen to participate in the health insurance exchange in 2014, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire is committed to working with our members, regulators, and others to help implement the Affordable Care Act in a reasonable way and to try to provide a smooth transition for members and employers,” said Anthem spokesman Christopher Dugan.

The cancellation last fall of 22,000 individual policies in New Hampshire and 4.7 million policies nationwide was one of the most damaging issues in the rollout of the health law because it contradicted Obama’s promise that those who liked their insurance could keep it. The latest extension could help defuse a political problem for Democrats in tough re-election battles this fall, though not everyone facing cancellation in New Hampshire is eligible.

Tim Bauman, a freelance business analyst from Concord, had been paying $250 a month when he was told his policy would be canceled. Bauman, 51, renewed last fall for $375 a month rather than purchase a $450-per-month marketplace plan that wouldn’t cover his doctors, and he said he doesn’t know whether he’ll take the extension. He would like to continue freelancing but said he might reconsider if he could get better coverage through an employer.

“I’m a healthy, active guy, and I’m just being hammered by this,” he said. “It’s really a kick in the teeth.”

Policies like Bauman’s generally provide less financial protection and narrower benefits than the coverage required under the law, but the skimpier insurance was acceptable to many consumers because it usually cost less. About half the states allowed insurance companies to extend canceled policies for a year under the original White House reprieve, but the fate of the latest extension is unsettled.

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, at least 27 states are allowing renewals, while six states and Washington, D.C., have decided against allowing them. It did not know the status of the others or whether all had made decisions.

Some of those with noncompliant policies in New Hampshire are still deciding what to do. Kysa Crusco, a divorce attorney in Bedford, pays $1,000 a month for a policy that expires Aug. 1. She said she got a letter from Anthem last week saying her plan is being discontinued and she could look into a marketplace plan or switch to a $1,140 off-market plan with a higher deductible and other provisions she dislikes.

“I’m really angry that we were told the ACA is going to be good for people who don’t have insurance — and I get that because in some of my divorce cases that is true — and if you like your insurance, you can keep it. Not true,” she said. “The ACA, from my perspective, has offered at least some reasonable coverage for some people, but for myself, I don’t know that there’s going to be a good option.”