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November 05. 2013 9:30PM

Anthem: 22,000 were told their health insurance would be cancelled in NH

CONCORD — Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield NH informed about 22,000 of its 30,000 individual health insurance holders their current policies will be discontinued at the end of the year because they will not comply with Affordable Care Act requirements beginning Jan. 1.

Speaking to the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee Tuesday, Paula Rogers, director of government relations for Anthem NH, said the letters were sent to all individual policy holders who were not grandfathered by having policies before the ACA passed in March 2010.

She said another letter will be sent to the 22,000 individuals outlining their options, one of which is early renewal. "Many people are not aware there is and always has been an early renewal option," Rogers said. "But it does have to be initiated by Nov. 15."

If the policy comes due next year, the holder may renew it through 2014, after which they will be required to enter the health exchange and purchase a plan complying with the "essential health benefits" all policies must provide.

By renewing current policies, people would be able to retain their current providers and hospitals, even if they are not members of the narrower Pathway network Anthem established for policies sold on the exchange.

"That's good news and bad news," said committee Co-chair Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge. "The good news is you get to keep your doc and the bad news is you won't get a subsidy."

Individual and families earning less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level receive federal subsidies through the exchange, based largely on income level.

Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, noted 75 percent of Anthem's individual policy holders — including his daughter — would be receiving what he called "cancellation letters."

New Hampshire residents are not alone in receiving the non-renewal or cancellation letters.

States had until September 2012 to choose "essential health benefits" that all policies had to contain to be approved for sale on the exchanges. The committee chose Anthem's Matthew Thornton Blue as the minimum package that could be offered in New Hampshire.

Current policies that do not meet the minimum benefits requirement cannot be renewed under the ACA after Jan. 1, when the individual mandate begins.

Individuals who have tried to compare or buy policies on the exchange have been stymied by the federal website's failures.

At the committee hearing, several Republican members of the committee pressed Rogers for the number of Granite Staters who signed up through the exchange.

Rogers said until the federal website works and begins to communicate with Anthem's system, it is impossible to know.

"What is the enrollment today?" Rogers said. "I don't know the answer. If I had it, I would give it to you."

But Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, questioned how the company could not know who applied and who signed up.

Rogers explained that the connectivity with the federal website is not working, so that information is not coming into her company's account. Until that information comes into the account, no one is officially enrolled, she said.

Anthem has not collected any federal money or money from individuals, she said. Once the connectivity is working, the transfers will be quite rapid, Rogers noted.

"So you're saying in New Hampshire's individual marketplace, enrollment is very difficult," Bradley asked Rogers, who responded "Yes, I think that's fair."

Rogers said that navigators hired to help individuals work their way through the enrollment process are reaching out to people and helping them file on paper, rather than electronically.

Enrollment for new health care policies opened Oct. 1, but problems with the federal and some state websites have prevented many people from purchasing plans.

The new policies will be effective Jan. 1. Rogers said the clients would have to be "fully enrolled by Dec. 15" for policies to go into effect the first of the year

The Obama administration's goal is to have the website healthcare.gov fully operational by the end of the month.

The committee will meet again Dec. 18 to review how enrollment has progressed.

grayno@unionleader.com


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