President announces 'fix' to health plan discontinuation notices

President announces "fix" to health plan discontinuation notices

MISSOULA, Mont. - On Thursday, President Barack Obama announced that Americans may be able to stay with their individual health insurance plans for another year. His proposal would allow insurance companies to offer noncompliant plans through 2014.

However, the insurers would have to tell buyers the difference between their plans and compliant plans available on exchanges. They must also explain to policy holders that other policies may be available with subsidies to qualified applicants.

The news follows an uproar over cancellation and discontinuation notices sent out to policy holders with noncompliant plans.

At the moment, it is not clear how Thursday's announcement will affect the thousands of Montanans who received discontinuation notices for plans noncompliant with the ACA.

By the end of October, Montana's division of Blue Cross Blue Shield had sent out more than 13,000 discontinuation notices.

"We are reviewing today's announcement and determining what our next steps are as we keep our members informed of their options both on and off the exchange," said John Doran, a marketing director with Blue Cross.

PacificSource had sent out about 5,000. In an emailed statement, the company's Montana regional director Todd Lovshin said: "There are many unanswered questions about how this would be implemented, and we are awaiting further regulatory guidance at both the federal and state levels.  Our policies do not all end on January 1, 2014, they end upon renewal - example a policy bought in October 2013 renews in October 2014 and the policy holder would need to select a new plan then.  We will be working with the Commissioner of Insurance to understand the impacts to the MT market place."

Regulations to insurance happen at the state level, so it is up to state commissioners to give the go-ahead to extensions. Kentucky, Idaho, California and Virginia require individual health plans to comply with ACA rules.

On Thursday's announcement, President Obama also apologized for the rocky start of the enrollment process in the exchanges. Only roughly 100,000 people signed up for insurance in the program's first month. Less than 27,000 used the website.

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