ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
52°
Overcast
H 56° L 42°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    52°
    Current Conditions
    Clear. H 56° L 42°
  • clear-night
    44°
    Morning
    Clear. H 56° L 42°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    69°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 76° L 55°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg news on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg traffic on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg weather on demand

00:00 | 00:00

National
Thousands of consumers get insurance cancellation notices due to health law changes
Close

Thousands of consumers get insurance cancellation notices due to health law changes

Thousands of consumers get insurance cancellation notices due to health law changes

Thousands of consumers get insurance cancellation notices due to health law changes

Health plans are sending hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage, frustrating some consumers who want to keep what they have and forcing others to buy more costly policies.

The main reason insurers offer is that the policies fall short of what the Affordable Care Act requires starting Jan. 1. Most are ending policies sold after the law passed in March 2010.  At least a few are cancelling plans sold to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

By all accounts, the new policies will offer consumers better coverage, in some cases, for comparable cost -- especially after the inclusion of federal subsidies for those who qualify. The law requires policies sold in the individual market to cover 10 “essential” benefits, such as prescription drugs, mental health treatment and maternity care. In addition, insurers cannot reject people with medical problems or charge them higher prices. The policies must also cap consumers’ annual expenses at levels lower than many plans sold before the new rules.

But the cancellation notices, which began arriving in August, have shocked many consumers in light of President Barack Obama’s promise that people could keep their plans if they liked them. 

“I don’t feel like I need to change, but I have to,” said Jeff Learned, a television editor in Los Angeles, who must find a new plan for his teenage daughter, who has a health condition that has required multiple surgeries.

An estimated 14 million people purchase their own coverage because they don’t get it through their jobs. Calls to insurers in several states showed that many have sent notices.

Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people – about half of its individual business in the state.  Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.

Some Policies Targeted

Both Independence and Highmark are cancelling so-called “guaranteed issue” policies, which had been sold to customers who had pre-existing medical conditions when they signed up. Policyholders with regular policies because they did not have health problems will be given an option to extend their coverage through next year.

Consumer advocates say such cancellations raise concerns that companies may be targeting their most costly enrollees.

They may be “doing this as an opportunity to push their populations into the exchange and purge their systems” of policyholders they no longer want, said Jerry Flanagan, an attorney with the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog in California.

Insurers deny that, saying they are encouraging existing customers to re-enroll in their new plans.

“We continue to cover people with all types of health conditions,” said Highmark spokeswoman Kristin Ash.

She said some policyholders who may have faced limited coverage for their medical conditions will get new plans with “richer benefits” and the policies “in most cases, will be at a lower rate.”

Paula Sunshine, vice president of marketing with Independence, said the insurer hopes the cancelled policyholders will “choose Blue when they decide on a new plan.”

Higher Costs?

Some receiving cancellations say it looks like their costs will go up, despite studies projecting that about half of all enrollees will get income-based subsidies.

Kris Malean, 56, lives outside Seattle, and has a health policy that costs $390 a month with a $2,500 deductible and a $10,000 in potential out-of-pocket costs for such things as doctor visits, drug costs or hospital care.

As a replacement, Regence BlueShield is offering her a plan for $79 more a month with a deductible twice as large as what she pays now, but which limits her potential out-of-pocket costs to $6,250 a year, including the deductible.

“My impression was …there would be a lot more choice, driving some of the rates down,” said Malean, who does not believe she is eligible for a subsidy.

Regence spokeswoman Rachelle Cunningham said the new plans offer consumers broader benefits, which “in many cases translate into higher costs.”

“The arithmetic is inescapable,” said Patrick Johnston, chief executive officer of the California Association of Health Plans. Costs must be spread, so while some consumers will see their premiums drop, others will pay more -- “no matter what people in Washington say.”

Health insurance experts say new prices will vary and much depends on where a person lives, their age and the type of policy they decide to buy.  Some, including young people and those with skimpy or high-deductible plans, may see an increase. Others, including those with health problems or who buy coverage with higher deductibles than they have now, may see lower premiums.

Blue Shield of California sent roughly 119,000 cancellation notices out in mid-September, about 60 percent of its individual business.  About two-thirds of those policyholders will see rate increases in their new policies, said spokesman Steve Shivinsky.

Like other insurers, the Blue Shield letters let customers know they have to make a decision by Dec. 31 or they will automatically be enrolled in a recommended plan.

“There is going to be a certain amount of churn in the marketplace as people have to make their decisions,” Shivinsky said.

Jay Hancock contributed.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

  • After the collapse of health care reform legislation in the House on Friday, Republicans in the Congress and President Donald Trump now must decide what’s next on their respective agendas, as the GOP tries to pick up the pieces from a very public legislative failure over an issue that had been their central political focus for the last seven years. Here’s the look from Capitol Hill. 1. The first big setback for the Trump agenda. You can try to downplay what happened, but there was little positive to take from this health care debacle in the House. “I will not sugarcoat this; this is a disappointing day for us,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan after the vote was canceled. President Trump tried to blame Democrats, but that rang hollow since the White House had done no serious outreach to the other party. With this setback, it’s even more apparent how little has been done so far by the GOP Congress with respect to the Trump Agenda. Other than approving a series of plans to reverse specific regulations of the Obama Administration, no bills of any import have been passed. Infrastructure, jobs bills, tax cuts, cutting government – all of that sounds good – but so far, no action. And Trump wrote 'The Art of the Deal' — Bill Mitchell (@JerseyGuy_Bill) March 25, 2017 2. Trump allies turn their sights on Speaker Ryan. It wasn’t hard to hear the low rumbling of some supporters of President Trump, as they used the Friday health care debacle to immediately try to make Speaker Ryan the scapegoat. Ann Coulter bluntly said, “Ryan is not on Trump’s side.” Pro-Trump websites like InfoWars and Breitbart immediately attacked Ryan as well, with some conservatives urging the House Freedom Caucus to help dump Ryan, arguing that he is the perfect illustration of the Republican Establishment that needs to be excised from Swamp of Washington, D.C. Paul Ryan is not on @POTUS' side – https://t.co/QVOHBDIKiT #KilledTheBill #FunFactFriday — Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) March 24, 2017 3. Full repeal of Obamacare needs 60 votes in the Senate. If Republicans couldn’t muster a majority in the House – how are they going to get 60 votes in the Senate to really change the bulk of the Obama health law? The answer – they’re not going to do that any time soon. But full repeal was still the mantra from a number of Republicans as the House GOP health care bill went down the tubes on Friday. “I remain committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with conservative reforms,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN). “Congress should take its time and pass a good bill that actually repeals ObamaCare,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). But the truth is, unless Republicans get 60 votes in the 2018 elections, an Obama health law repeal bill faces a difficult road in the Congress. I applaud House conservatives for keeping their word to the American people. I look forward to passing full repeal https://t.co/ftyj6sCw0v — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 24, 2017 4. This fight on health care is already over? It seems hard to believe that Republicans are just going to drop the issue of health care reform, especially after making it such a central part of their political message in recent years. But President Trump seemed to send the signal that he is going to focus his political capital on other issues, like tax reform. “That one is going to be fun,” the President said earlier this week, as his Treasury Secretary predicted a final tax bill would on the President’s desk by early August. The last time Congress approved major tax reform was 1986. There’s a reason it hasn’t happened in over 30 years. It is not easy. And the lobbyists of Gucci Gulch will be ready. President Trump says tax reform is the next item on his agenda https://t.co/dLNduSPgl6 — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 24, 2017 5. This wasn’t really much of an effort. The White House said the President “left everything on the field” to get a health care bill. But it doesn’t look like that at all. Go back eight years, and Democrats were just launching their 13 month effort to forge what would become known as Obamacare. It went through the spring, summer, fall, winter, and then into the next spring of 2010, before being achieved. By contrast, the GOP introduced its health care bill on March 6 and gave up on March 24. Back in 2009 and 2010, Democrats struggled to keep their side together, but managed to get 60 votes for their package in the Senate. The GOP couldn’t even get a majority in the House. There is still time to go back to the drawing board. But it takes more than 18 days of work. Remember when Republicans promised they would try to fiddle with Obamacare for a few weeks and then give up? — Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) March 24, 2017 6. Let the Republican finger pointing begin. One of the biggest immediate targets was the Freedom Caucus, the group of more conservative lawmakers which for years has been very good at holding out against the GOP leadership, but has done almost nothing in the way of substantive legislating. Some of that ire was aimed at Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the head of the Freedom Caucus. “Mark Meadows is more interested in being on the TV than solving problems,” fumed Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), who then aimed some more barbs at Meadows and pointedly made sure to tell a reporter – “You can quote me on that.” Exactly right. GOP & Trump own this,but @freedomcaucus & @Heritage_Action & others caused it. They are the pie-in-the-sky caucus. https://t.co/9tMcfk45ox — Brit Hume (@brithume) March 24, 2017 7. Don’t downplay the importance of this setback. Yes, it’s just one bill. Yes, it’s not the end of the world. But this failure was a big deal. Republicans have been talking for years about how they would repeal and replace the Obama health law. Donald Trump said he would do it right away. But for years, I have been reporting – and taking flak for saying – that while the GOP had lots of ideas, they didn’t have consensus on any plan. And that was obvious as they desperately tried to stitch together deals at the last minute to keep the bill moving. It’s pretty easy to lob verbal grenades at the other party – it’s a little different to offer substantive legislation and pass it. Humiliating defeat for GOP after years to prepare. Real blow to their argument that they could govern if only given the chance. — carl hulse (@hillhulse) March 24, 2017 8. This was not a good week for President Trump. It started Monday with the FBI Director publicly confirming that not only was there an investigation of how Russia meddled in last year’s election, but also a probe of any links between the Trump Campaign and Moscow. The FBI chief also made clear there was no evidence to back up Trump’s claim that he had been wiretapped in 2016. And the NSA shot down talk that British Intelligence had helped with surveillance on Trump Tower. Meanwhile, the Trump travel and refugee ban stayed on hold the courts, despite Mr. Trump’s declaration that judges were overstepping their authority. Then the week ended with a health care thud. Tomorrow's cover: Trump forced to cancel health care vote in stunning blow https://t.co/53Po4iXVbM pic.twitter.com/lEQe5Qc22g — New York Post (@nypost) March 24, 2017
  • Unable to convince GOP lawmakers to get on board with a plan to overhaul the Obama health law, Republicans in the House decided not to even force a vote on the measure, a major setback for both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. “This bill is dead,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who played a central role in cobbling together this plan. 'This bill is dead,' House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Walden says — Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) March 24, 2017 The bill never even came to a vote, as it became obvious that Republicans had nowhere near a majority of lawmakers ready to vote for it. Democrats were more than happy to pile on the GOP legislative debacle. #ObamaCare 1 – #Trumpcare 0. — Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) March 24, 2017
  • In the end, monolithic opposition by Democrats coupled with opposition from the far right doomed Friday’s vote on the American Health Care Act, the GOP bill that would have repealed and replaced the law commonly known as “Obamacare.” GOP leadership decided to pull the bill, realizing that it could not pass. The Trump administration made it clear early Friday that negotiations were over, and the president wanted an up or down vote Friday. House Speaker Paul Ryan went to the White House to report he didn’t have the votes to pass the bill; President Trump had previously said win or lose, Rep. Ryan should keep his position as Speaker. The GOP plan (AHCA) would have ended the mandate that all Americans pay for health insurance, replacing it with a plan where the federal government would give Americans tax credits, based on age. That would have saved taxpayers billions of dollars, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, but would have left  24 million additional Americans without health coverage within the next decade. Many governors, including some Republicans, also had serious concerns about the additional burdens passed on to states under the AHCA.
  • The Pawhuska woman recently accused of exposing herself to a classroom of students was arrested this week on accusations of stealing a purse.  According to the arrest report, Lacey Sponsler allegedly stole a purse while at the Broken Arrow Lanes bowling alley near 111th and Elm last Thursday.   The report states that witnesses saw her acting suspiciously and looking at people’s belongings. One witness saw her grab a purse and asked if it was hers. She said it was not.   A witness then reportedly saw Sponsler walk into the game room and return wearing different clothes. Police were called and found her in the bathroom.   Sponsler was arrested in February for doing a cartwheel in front of students at a Pawhuska school. She was not wearing anything under her dress and exposed herself to the students.
  • Authorities in Ohio arrested three people after they discovered the badly decomposed body of a 71-year-old Vietnam veteran in a home, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news Deputies with the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office found the body of Bob Harris, 71, after learning that his Social Security debit card was being used despite the fact that he hadn’t been seen for months, WJW reported. The body had decomposed to the point where the remains were mostly skeletal, lying in the living room of a home in Wainwright. The body was kept a short distance from where the home’s residents slept, according to WJW. “It’s a horribly graphic case,” Sheriff Orvis Campbell told TimesReporter.com. He said Harris’ body was found in some “of the most deplorable conditions we can describe.” Trash and animal waste was found near the body. Harris was living with a married couple and their daughter, according to TimesReporter.com. The family had spread stories about Harris moving to Stark County and allowing them to use his Social Security benefits, Campbell said. Authorities arrested Brian and Stacy Sorohan on charges of abuse of a corpse and theft of a credit card, according to The Associated Press. The couple’s 18-year-old daughter was charged with abuse of a corpse. Deputies said the circumstances surrounding Harris’ death were not immediately clear. An autopsy will be performed to determine whether his death involved foul play, according to TimesReporter.com.