Lawmakers, state officials urge insurers to stop canceling policies

Amid  reports of cancellation letters sent to members because plans don't meet healthcare reform's essential health benefits, lawmakers and state officials are pressuring insurers to allow members to retain their policies.

A bill introduced Monday in the Senate, for example, would let insurers maintain any individual plan they currently offer in following years, though it would require they disclose which aspects of the plan don't comply with the healthcare reform law, reported the Wall Street Journal.

And Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has asked Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care, the state's two dominant carriers, to let members keep their plans through March 31.

Earlier this week, the California insurance commissioner and Blue Shield of California made a deal to delay by three months the cancellation of more than 115,000 individual policies.

But experts question whether other states can make similar agreements with insurers. A loophole in California law let Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones threaten to sue Blue Shield if it didn't extend certain policies, Politico reported.

"I don't think, short of other legal violations, that [other] health insurers will give people more time," Jones said at a press conference Tuesday.

If insurers must cancel policies, the Obama administration urged they provide consumers with alternative options for health coverage. In a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, President Barack Obama's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough asked insurance executives to explain to their members that other options are available, The Hill's Healthwatch reported.

McDonough emphasized that insurers must "ramp up communication and education efforts to consumers who have received or might receive letters about their individual market plans changing," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

"Obviously for insurers, it's in their interest to make it clear to their customers that they have offerings for them that meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act, and also that they may be eligible for credits," Carney added.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- see the Politico article
- check out The Hill's Healthwatch article

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