PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon health insurers can give extensions of up to a year to health plans that had been slated for cancellation because they don’t comply with the federal health care law, the state’s insurance commissioner announced Friday.
The move means some of the 145,000 people who have received notices that their insurance will be canceled by year’s end may be able to keep their plans, although the decision will be left to each insurance company.
At least one large insurer, Regence BlueCross BlueShield, said it planned to extend policies slated to expire. Spokeswoman Samantha Meese said Regence would be communicating with customers in the coming weeks “so that they clearly understand their options.”
Insurance Commissioner Laura Cali had previously rejected a push to force insurance companies to delay cancellations. She changed course after President Barack Obama announced his decision on Thursday to allow the continued sale of insurance plans that don’t comply with the minimum standards in the Affordable Care Act.
Insurance companies that choose to offer extensions will need to notify the Insurance Division and contact customers directly, the agency said.
In a statement, Cali warned that retaining the same plan may not be the best option for everybody.
“The new plans offered in 2014 offer more benefits and financial protections, and many Oregonians will qualify for premium help through Cover Oregon, the state’s health insurance marketplace,” Cali said.
Cali faced political pressure from members of Oregon’s congressional delegation, some of whom called on her to allow policy extensions after Obama’s repeated promises that his health care law would allow people to keep their coverage if they were happy with it.
The decision applies to about 145,000 people in the individual insurance market, who are slated to lose their coverage at the end of the year, and about 193,000 people in the small-group market, whose coverage would be deemed insufficient whenever the current policy expires.
People who get health insurance from a large employer, Medicaid or Medicare are not affected.
Kathy Jost, a spokeswoman for PacificSource Health Plans, said it’s too soon to know how the company will respond to Cali’s decision.
“With this new information, we’ll be evaluating what might be possible to help give our customers more time to explore their options,” Jost said.
Brad Kieffer, a spokesman for Health Net Inc., said only that the company is committed to working with regulators, lawmakers and others “as they address the issues around implementation” of the health care law.
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