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Published: Friday, 11/15/2013 - Updated: 9 months ago

Director: Ohio to aid firms with reissuing plans

BY MARLENE HARRIS-TAYLOR
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The director of the Ohio Department of Insurance responded to President Obama’s change in direction on the health-care law, giving insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled, by saying the agency will work with companies to reissue those plans.

Mary Taylor did not indicate in a written statement, however, that the department will take the next step and require Ohio insurance companies to reissue those policies.

“We support allowing Ohioans to keep the health-care plans they want, as they were promised when Obamacare was being explained to them, and we will work with companies to reissue those plans if they choose. We are concerned, however, that today’s announcement adds even more uncertainty and complexity to an insurance market already in chaos and that this will only accelerate premium increases for many consumers and small businesses while further destabilizing Ohio’s insurance market,” said Ms. Taylor.

Rich Craig, an independent insurance agent in Toledo for the Pinnacle Health Group, said the President’s announcement will be welcome news to some of his clients. Mr. Craig said he has received 50 to 60 “panicked calls” from people who learned their insurance plans are being canceled because of requirements in the Affordable Health Care Act.

Mr. Craig primarily represents Medical Mutual of Ohio and Anthem Blue Cross. He sells private health insurance plans and is also certified to sell policies in the health-care exchange. He says people can purchase the same policies from his company that they sign up for on the Web site. The difference, though, is that consumers can only get subsidies that help lower the costs if they purchase the health plans on the Web site.

“I have one client who said it took nine hours to get through and they are not sure if they bought a policy or not,” Mr. Craig said.

Thursday, Mr. Obama also apologized for the rough start to the enrollment in the federal exchanges. The initial enrollment numbers were below expectations, with only 27,000 people signed up for insurance in the first month through the federal Web site. In Ohio, just 1,150 people actually purchased health insurance through the federal exchange in October.

Mr. Craig is not sure what effect the change in policy will have on his clients who have already had their insurance policies canceled because the insurance companies will decide on their own if they wish to move forward with the cancellations.

“Will this result in insurance companies going back on their policies? It certainly sounds like good news but it’s too early to tell what the impact will be,” said CareNet executive director Jan Ruma. CareNet is one of 12 nonprofit agencies in Ohio that was chosen by the Ohio Association of Food Banks to help implement a grant it received from the federal government to train “navigators” and outreach workers to help with enrollment.

Ms. Ruma also suggested the President might consider moving the March 31 open enrollment deadline because of the problems and technical issues on the Web site. “I think an extension makes sense because people have not been able to shop,” she said.

The individual mandate that requires people to carry health insurance kicks in April 1. After that, the uninsured will face an annual penalty of $95 or 1 percent of their taxable income, whichever is greater.

Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at: mtaylor@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.



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