By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon
Colorado is joining about a dozen other states that are not requiring health insurance companies to revive canceled health plans.
Those states include California, Washington, Vermont and New York, according to the lobbying group, America’s Health Insurance Plans.
Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar on Tuesday said that more than 95 percent of the 250,000 people in Colorado who received cancellation notices have had the option to renew their old plans and continue them into 2014 if they chose to do so.
For those whose plans were canceled, Salazar said that insurance carriers will not have to reinstate the plans. President Obama had called on states to allow people to keep canceled plans since he had promised people that if they liked their health insurance, they could keep it.
Salazar initially said she would try to help consumers whose plans had been cancelled.
“Our top goals remain ensuring consumers have health insurance coverage and have options,” she said in a written statement.
But resurrecting canceled health plans would have required a scramble from health insurance carriers and new legislation. That’s because Colorado lawmakers earlier this year passed House Bill 13-1266, which outlaws health plans sold in Colorado after Dec. 31 that don’t meet the basic requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Allowing old plans could have also undermined Colorado’s health exchange.
“The system created to implement the ACA here was built by Colorado, for Colorado,” Salazar said. “Changing our approach mid-stream would have led to problems in the health insurance market and would have caused additional consumer confusion. Coloradoans should continue to explore their options for better coverage and better protections at reasonable rates.”
Insurance carriers in Colorado are relieved that they don’t have to scramble to revive the canceled plans.
“When we build a product, we do so more than a year in advance,” said Steve ErkenBrack, president of Rocky Mountain Health Plans and a health exchange board member. “It (could have had) unintended consequences.”
He said it would have been “extremely challenging” to have brought back the plans and supported Salazar’s decision not to do a “reset at the eleventh hour.”
Marc Reece, associate director of the Colorado Association of Health Plans, said that insurance carriers did not want to revive canceled plans.
“We should stay the course,” Reece said last week. “If a policy has been canceled, the policy no longer exists. If it no longer exists, it can’t be resurrected,” Reece said.
Furthermore, he said Colorado could not violate its own state law that requires all new health insurance plans to comply with new requirements.
“We can’t ignore our own state law. Staying the course seems to be the best idea for Colorado.”
Among consumers who received a cancellation notice is Lisa Baird of Golden.
“I got a cancellation letter and my first reaction was I was really chagrined,” said Baird, whose husband is self-employed.
“You go through the angst of thinking, ‘I’m sure I can find other insurance, but what a hassle,’” she said.
At first, Baird started shopping through Colorado’s exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, and found that a new plan would cost her about $700. Then she received another letter from Anthem that said she could keep a plan similar to her old one. It would cost $559 per month.
“So that’s what I ended up doing,” Baird said.
The increase of $59 a month does not upset her because she expects health insurance costs to rise at least a little bit each year.
Baird said everything has worked out fine for her family.
“When I was canceled, I was not really pleased,” she said. “But my situation ended up being a non-issue.”
She supports the Affordable Care Act.
“I knew at some level, I was going to be covered,” she said. “With the law, you feel like there’s a safety net.”