HCFA Urges Massachusetts To Reject Extending Non-Compliant Plans (UPDATE: Admin agrees with us)

The Obama administration’s decision to permit insurers to continue to offer plans they otherwise would have cancelled (here’s some good place-it-in-context background from The New Republic’s Jon Cohn) is still subject to state insurance market rules.

Already a number of states, including Washington, Arkansas, Vermont and Rhode Island, have ruled that they will continue to insist that all new plans offered in the state comply with the consumer protections in the ACA. Note that “grandfathered” plans, in existence before the ACA was signed in 2010, were always still allowed to be offered to people who wished to renew those plans.

Massachusetts has not yet announced its decision (see the Monday morning UPDATE below), although we understand the Division of Insurance is looking closely at the issue. On Friday, HCFA sent a letter to DOI urging them to reject this option. Here’s our letter:

November 15, 2013

Joseph G. Murphy, Commissioner
Kevin P. Beagan, Deputy Commissioner, Health Care Access Bureau
Massachusetts Division of Insurance

Re: Transitional Policy for Carrier Compliance with Federal Market Reforms

Dear Commissioner Murphy and Deputy Commissioner Beagan:

We are writing regarding yesterday’s letter from Gary Cohen, Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), to state Insurance Commissioners, which provides information on the “transitional policy” allowing health insurance issuers to choose to continue coverage that would otherwise be terminated or cancelled due to requirements under the ACA market reforms, and allowing affected individuals and small businesses to choose to re-enroll in such coverage.

We urge you to formally reject allowing carriers in Massachusetts to continue coverage under this transitional policy.

Health Care For All has received no calls from consumers complaining about losing coverage due to the ACA. As you know, we’ve long had virtually all of the protections that the ACA extends nationally. All insurance in Massachusetts has met the 2014 federal requirements around covering pre-existing conditions and not discriminating based on health status or gender since the 1990s. People in Massachusetts are subject to minimum benefit requirements that are very similar to those in the upcoming federal law. For example, under minimum creditable coverage standards, Massachusetts residents have had prescription drug coverage since 2009. Similarly, we have had state mental health insurance mandates for years.

We are concerned that the transitional policy would unnecessarily disrupt the existing ACA transitions in Massachusetts, create consumer confusion, and unsettle premium rates, which have been finalized for plans starting on January 1, 2014.

While the majority of Massachusetts plans were already in compliance with the federal market reforms, there are some benefit improvements under the ACA that will improve coverage for families. The President’s decision may make sense in a national context; however, for Massachusetts there is no need to turn the clock back.

A number of other states have already determined that this transitional policy would not be in the public interest, including Arkansas, Washington and Vermont. We urge Massachusetts to join these states in protecting consumers and the insurance market.

Sincerely,

Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, Esq.
Executive Director
Health Care For All

We’ll update this post when there’s a decision from DOI.

UPDATE:

Were very pleased that on Monday morning, Division of Insurance Commissioner Joseph Murphy sent this letter to federal officials, rejecting the option:

Mass letter to CCIIO 11-18-13

About HCFA

The Ultimate Massachusetts Health Care Insider Information
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