Shea-Porter says Anthem has extended individual policy renewal deadline from today until Nov. 30By JOHN DiSTASO
Senior Political Reporter
November 15. 2013 11:34AM
U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter announced Friday Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield has extended the renewal date for Granite Staters who buy individual market policies from today to Nov. 30.
The New Hampshire Democrat's announcement could not be immediately confirmed with Anthem.
Shea-Porter's announcement came after President Barack Obama said Thursday that insurance companies would be allowed under a new rule to extend existing policies that do not comply with Affordable Care Act requirements for another year.
It is unclear at the moment if the two-week extension is an interim step by Anthem or if there will be no further offer of an longer extension, perhaps into 2014, in keeping with the new Obama announcement and rule.
Shea-Porter said, "I'm pleased to announce that Anthem has informed me that it has extended its renewal period for current individual plans, and I thank them for their flexibility. Current customers can now contact Anthem until Nov. 30 to extend their coverage for a year."
Shea-Porter's announcement said the Anthem decision means "consumers have an extra 15 days to carefully compare their old insurance policies to new options on the (ACA exchange) marketplace. This is important because the old policies might not offer the same benefits and protections that will be in effect on Jan. 1, 2014 under the Affordable Care Act. These old plans will also not be eligible for tax subsidies."
Shea-Porter's announcement said that she has "consistently said that the Affordable Care Act is not a perfect law, and it still needs fixes, but she remains committed to ensuring that all Granite Staters have access to quality, affordable health care.
Her statement continued, "This summer, following news that only Anthem would offer plans (in New Hampshire) through the marketplace in 2014, the congresswoman spoke directly to President Obama about New Hampshire's single health insurer and New Hampshire's historically high costs. She has continued to advocate for the state in follow-up conversations with various administration officials and Anthem."
(Our earlier report follows.)
THURSDAY, NOV. 14:
CONCORD -- The state's insurance commissioner said Thursday that he and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield are assessing the effect on New Hampshire of President Obama's announcement allowing insurers to extend existing individual and small group policies for another year.
"Right now," said Commissioner Roger Sevigny, "we are internally vetting it and we are also speaking with Anthem."
He said he did not expect to be able to have a detailed analysis today, but he said, "We do know that it's a big deal and decisions have to be made and they have to be made fairly quickly."
Obama, who had promised repeatedly that under the Affordable Care Act, those who like their existing plans and doctors can keep them, acted after weeks of bipartisan outrage over the fact that his promise was not being kept in the program's roll-out, as millions of Americans received cancellation notices.
"I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans, particularly after assurances they heard from me that if they had a plan that they liked they could keep it," Obama said at the White House.
"And to those Americans, I hear you loud and clear. I said that I would do everything we can to fix this problem. And today I'm offering an idea that will help do it."
In New Hampshire, Anthem, which by far is the state's largest provider of individual policies, two weeks ago informed policy-holders that they could keep their current plans as long as they renew by tomorrow, Nov. 15. A U.S. House Democratic aide said at the time Anthem is allowed under the law to offer plans that do not comply with the ACA because those plans have an effective date of Dec. 1 of this year.
Until Obama's announcement today, any plan that took effect as of Jan. 1, 2014 had to be ACA-compliant.
But that changed when the President announced new rules that allow plans that do not comply with ACA requirements to be extended into 2014. He also said the nation's insurance commissioners would have authority over whether to allow insurance companies to provide the extensions, if the companies choose to do so.
The question in New Hampshire is whether Anthem will adhere to the Nov. 15 deadline for renewals or whether, after the Obama announcement, they will extend that renewal window further.
Anthem officials did not respond to numerous calls and emails seeking clarification on that question.
New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner Sevigny acknowledged he could not answer the question today, either.
"That's what we want to make sure we understand completely," he said. "But at least the initial understanding is that if Anthem decides to do so, it would move that Nov. 15 date out through much of 2014. But that's one of the questions we're making sure we have the right answer to."
"It's not a federal mandate that they do it," Sevigny said. "Tomorrow is the 15th and for anyone who feels that they are under the gun, it would be good if they knew what they could do by tomorrow."
Anthem, he said, is "working very intently in developing what the solution is going to be. It takes time trying to figure this out."
He added, "Does this mean, 'stop the presses?' or what? We don't know that yet."
Sevigny said he was also investigating what authority he has as insurance commissioner to implement the new rules announced by Obama, given that the state has its own laws that limit his authority to alter ACA requirements.
"That's the feature we're assessing, to see how it interacts with state law," he said.
"We've spoken to Anthem several times today and will continue to speak with them," Sevigny said. "I want to do everything I can to make sure that the right decision is reached for the State of New Hampshire, and I want to be sure I'm complying with both federal law and state law.
"There are a lot of thing to consider and I'm hoping within the next 24 hours we'll have some good direction. We don't have it yet."
Sevigny noted that state law was changed in the last session that for "all intents and purposes has the state complying with federal law, but what I can't comment on right now is exactly what that means because I don't want to do it prematurely."
At the State House, Gov. Maggie Hassan's spokesman, Marc Goldberg, said, "While the Insurance Department is reviewing today's announcement to determine the impact on New Hampshire given that Anthem customers have already had the option to renew, the governor believes extending this option to more people for a longer period of time is an encouraging step.
"The federal government must still redouble efforts to fix problems with the federal HealthCare.gov web site in order for individuals to fully evaluate all of their options for affordable, quality health coverage," Goldberg said.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Reps. Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter, all Democratic supporters of Obama and the overall aim of the ACA -- and all up for reelection next year -- supported Obama's extension announcement.
Shaheen's spokesman said she had no intention of withdrawing her own bill that would extend the open enrollment deadline from March 31 to May 31, saying they were separate issues.
Shea-Porter and Kuster said that despite the President's announcement, they will still vote in support of the Republican-sponsored "Keep Your Health Plan Act," which would let new customers buy minimal policies, in addition to allowing only existing policy-holders to keep them for an additional year, as Obama is proposing.
The Obama announcement came after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that in the first month of the ACA roll-out, 106,185 people nationwide signed up for plans under state exchanges or the federal exchange. In New Hampshire, 269 people signed up in the first month.
Also outstanding is whether the announcement would affect the impending phase-out of the state's high-risk pool, the quasi-public New Hampshire Health Plans.
Under a state law this year, the NHHP would cease operation on Dec. 31 as the highest-risk Granite Staters ostensibly signed up for subsidized coverage under the ACA.
Given the complications with the ACA roll-out and today's Obama announcement, the NHHP board is meeting with Sevigny on Friday "to talk about the future of our organization," NHHP Executive Director William Degnan told UnionLeader.com.
He said that under the law, Sevigny has "sole discretion" on whether NHHP would continue to exist after Dec. 31. Degnan said NHHP has 2,700 policy-holders.