‘Canceled plans’ to be DOA for 2016

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon

Health plans that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act no longer will be allowed in Colorado after this year.

The decision will affect about 190,000 people.

Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar on Friday decided to phase out health insurance plans by the end of the year if they don’t include all the basic “essential benefits” required under the Affordable Care Act.

The plans were supposed to disappear last year as health exchanges launched, but President Obama allowed states to extend the plans after he had previously promised that all those who had insurance plans they liked could keep them.

Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar allowed the non-compliant plans for 2015. Now, she said it’s time to transition to more comprehensive plans required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“She gave people the extra year last year to continue these plans and just felt that it was time now. The ACA passed in 2010 and it’s time to move people to better coverage,” said Vincent Plymell, Salazar’s spokesman.

People with the non-compliant plans will have several months to switch to new plans for 2016.

“This isn’t going to just happen tomorrow. They (customers) are required to get notice…and that will probably happen toward the end of the year,” Plymell said. Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 5.05.16 PM

People who must switch to new coverage will be able to shop on Colorado’s exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, or they’ll be able to use brokers or buy directly from health insurance carriers.

Data from the Division of Insurance show that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado has about 62,000 customers with the non-compliant plans, while Kaiser Permanente of Colorado has about 34,000 and CIGNA and Golden Rule each have about 16,000 customers with the non-compliant plans.

A spokeswoman for Anthem declined to comment late Friday.

Colorado’s newest heath insurance carrier, the Colorado HealthOP, could gain market share as the old plans disappear. The HealthOP scored nearly 40 percent of the state’s health exchange sign-ups for 2015.  Another big player on the health exchange market has been Kaiser, which picked up 35 percent of exchange business.

Julia Hutchins, the HealthOP’s CEO, late Friday said in a written statement that “Coloradans will surely benefit from a more level playing field, where increased competition keeps health care prices in check and improves access to high quality health plans.”

Hutchins said Gov. John Hickenlooper and Commissioner Salazar made the right call for Colorado customers.

Plymell, Salazar’s spokesman, said creating an even playing field played a role in Salazar’s decision. He said balancing the risk pool with both healthy people and those who are sicker creates a healthier situation for everyone.

“That’s going to stabilize the market even more and that’s something that’s definitely a positive for the state as a whole,” Plymell said.

Consumer advocates celebrated the news that the non-compliant plans will disappear, while Obamacare foes will use the decision to launch new complaints about the requirements under the ACA.




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