Non-compliant health plans OK to be extended

Posted: November 22, 2013

The Winchester Star

Sen. Tim Kaine
Sen. Mark Warner

WINCHESTER — Virginia’s two U.S. senators Thursday praised the decision of the State Corporation Commission’s Bureau of Insurance to allow insurance carriers to extend coverage of existing plans for businesses and individuals that would’ve been canceled under the Affordable Care Act.

Following outrage over the news that millions of Americans were seeing their individual health plans canceled because they didn’t meet ACA requirements, President Barack Obama encouraged insurance companies to go ahead and renew those policies.

In a Nov. 15 letter to SCC Insurance Commissioner Jacqueline Cunningham, Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine urged her to allow previously canceled plans to be renewed for customers who want them.

It says their offices had been contacted by many constituents whose individual or small group plans were canceled.

“While the availability of new insurance coverage that includes important consumer protections and premium subsidies are available through Virginia’s Federally Facilitated Marketplace starting Jan. 1, some of these consumers may be unlikely to purchase new coverage for next year on the Marketplace and would like to keep their current plans,” the letter says.

Obama’s suggestion was reviewed by the SCC’s Bureau of Insurance, according to an SCC news release. It says it would allow some non-ACA complaint insurance plans to remain in effect as late as Oct. 1, 2015.

“Upon an analysis of Virginia state insurance laws which incorporated the provisions of the ACA ... it is unclear whether the Bureau has the authority under Virginia law to implement the President’s recommendation,” the release says.

“What is clear is that Virginia insurance law does permit the Bureau of Insurance to allow carriers to offer early renewal of existing insurance plans in the individual and small business group markets so that policyholders may continue existing coverage into 2014.”

The bureau urges insurance carriers to offer the coverage through the end of next year.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Kaine and Warner called the SCC’s determination “welcome news.”

“This action will help smooth the transition to the new system,” the statement says. “We remain committed to working together to see that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act works more effectively for Virginia families, small businesses and employers.”

Spokesmen for the senators said they were unavailable for comment on Thursday.

— Contact Sally Voth at svoth@winchesterstar.com