Restoration of canceled insurance isn't a given

Obama's reversal gives final say to state regulators, individual insurers

URBANA — Health Alliance Medical Plans is all for letting its thousands of customers with canceled health insurance plans continue them for another year, but that's a decision the state will first have to allow, company CEO Jeff Ingrum said.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama reversed course and said millions of Americans should be allowed to renew individual coverage plans now ticketed for cancellation under the Affordable Care Act — but with certain conditions. One is that state insurance regulators have the final say.

Insurers would also need to notify customers that the existing plans they'd be keeping don't offer all the benefits required under the new law, and there are other health plan options (with potential payment subsidies) available for them in the government marketplace.

Under pressure from consumers as well as congressional Democrats, Obama said the administration no longer would require insurance companies to jettison current individual and small group plans that fall short of the minimum coverage standards under the law, effectively shifting responsibility for cancellations to the industry itself. The change would be good for just one year, though senior administration officials said it could be extended if problems persist.

Speaking of the millions of people whose coverage is being scrapped, Obama said, "What we want to do is to be able to say to these folks, you know what, the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the reason why insurers have to cancel your plan."

Obama spoke at a news conference where he repeatedly took responsibility for the woeful rollout of the health care program known by his name. Officials disclosed on Wednesday that fewer than 27,000 enrollments were completed in 36 states in the first month of operations for HealthCare.gov.

Including enrollment of more than 79,000 in the 14 states with their own websites, the nationwide number was 106,000 for October sign-ups. But that is still far fewer than expected and a mere fraction of the cancellation notices that have gone out because of the law — more than four million according to an Associated Press survey.

Mike Claffey, a state health care spokesman, said Illinois Department of Insurance Director Andrew Boron has been in contact with federal authorities since Obama's announcement.

"We are closely monitoring the situation," he said. "In light of the latest developments, we are carefully evaluating the department's options under state law and through the lens of what's best for Illinois health care consumers."

Meanwhile, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois officials said the company, which has the most customers in the state's individual market, is "determining next steps," but they stopped short of promising to renew its canceled plans.

Shonn Hild, a landscaper from Sullivan, whose health plan was canceled recently, said Obama's proposal may be "too little, too late." He said he called Blue Cross on Thursday after the president's announcement and was told the company is gathering information. But "as of right now they do not have any plans to bring back the discontinued plans," Hild said he was told.

Health Alliance would be "more than happy" to help its customers extend their current health plans — in effect through the end of the calendar year — for another year, Ingrum said.

"We have about 19,500 members on our individual plans, and I think most of them would like to keep what they've got," he said.

Obama's one-year fix should create less fear for people facing their options, Ingrum said, and he thinks it was a good move. However, he warns, "at this time, it's only a delay so it doesn't necessarily mean this issue has totally been fixed. All they've done at this point is announced a delay."

Danville insurance agent Jim Moore was happy to hear the news, saying he's got a long list of customers to get back to.

"If they would say all people can keep their existing plans for a year, 99 percent of my people would keep their existing plans for a year," he said. "I don't see any reason they wouldn't."

Moore has been hunting for new health coverage along with his customers, since learning he and his wife are facing a more-than-double increase in premiums for their Health Alliance plan.

Keeping the current plan would be their best choice for a year, he said.

"My attitude is if we can delay it for a year, maybe we'll see what this is doing to people and they'll see what this is doing to people and scrap the whole thing," he said.

Janice Popovich of Mahomet, who has been facing doubled Health Alliance plan rates for coverage for her family of four, said being able to keep the current plan would help temporarily.

"That would definitely help my situation for sure, but my concern is what will come for the future, because it's not a permanent solution, obviously," she said.

Jim Duffett, executive director for the pro-health care reform organization Campaign for Better Health Care, said this is a short-term fix that he doesn't expect to compromise the overall impact of the Affordable Care Act.

It would have been a larger concern if people would have been allowed to keep their old health plans indefinitely, he said, because some of those plans contained such thin coverage they didn't even include hospitalization.

The insurance industry has known for three years it would have to meet new standards of coverage, and could have begun moving their customers into new plans and educating them about what was coming more gradually instead of waiting until the last minute, Duffett said.

"For many people who think they've been covered, they're not, and it's unfortunate the insurance industry didn't begin easing people into plans that met these standards," he said.

Ingrum said it's not fair to suggest insurance companies should have been changing customers' policies early when the government promised they could keep the policies they liked. At the heart of this issue are promises that weren't kept and a federal health marketplace that is "not ready for prime time," he said.

"We followed the rules and did what we were supposed to do," Ingrum added.

Duffett contends this has been an education process for people, and he urges policyholders to look at what their plans offer and what else is available in the government marketplace.

The analogy he has been using for a shift to new health coverage standards is the effect of new safety standards for the automotive industry, he said.

"They've instituted seat belts, airbags and safety glass and many other things, and we've definitely seen the lives of people being saved from automobile accidents," he said.

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bluegrass wrote on November 15, 2013 at 10:11 am

Say the health care system in this country is a house.  It's not a perfect house, it has some issues, but for the most part it has a solid foundation and roof, but it has  developed a plumbing leak.  Obama and the democrats decide to fix the problem by pouring gas on the house, and burning the whole thing down.  And the media onlookers just cheer and ask the Republicans, "Okay, if you don't like this idea of burning down the house, then tell us your plan to fix the plumbing leak, otherwise it's go time!"  So the plan moves forward.  In the middle of the night, picture Pelosi dousing the front portch with a gas can, and leaving a gas trail to the other numbskulls like Durbin and Schumer standing watch.  Obama flicks his cigarette on the the gas trail, and the house explodes into flames.  They all walk away in slow motion with smiles of satisfaction, not looking back, like they're in a Tarantino movie.  Now, as the whole thing is engulfed in flames, Obama rushes in with one, rusty pail of water, throws it furiously on the fire, and with a sheepish grin he mumbles, "Sorry about that."

This whole situation is the liberal mentality in a nutshell.  You can see these people lying for each other, lying to each other, lying to all of us, competely screwing up the health care system and then trying to tape it together with more laws and more edicts.  It's a joke.  Remember when the media and the dems and the neo-statist republicans were lambasting Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and a handful of others for standing up for 24 hours or so on the Senate floor, and pleading with people that this bill is nothing but a con, a mess, and nightmare?  I remember it well.  I remember little Dick Durbin and the Maveriest Maverick trying their best to make him look silly.  Doesn't look so silly now.  

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 15, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Obama, and politics aside; do you feel that there is a need for national healthcare?

bluegrass wrote on November 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm

We have national healthcare.  It's called Medicare and Medicaid, and both are bankrupting the country.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 15, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Medicare goes to those who paid into the Social Security system.  How is something an "entitlement" when people paid for it?  The money that went into the Social Security Trust Fund has been taken for years for other things with an I.O.U. left to replace it.  Seriously, read about it.  It has been acknowledged by both political parties. 

Medicaid is for the financially less fortunate.  You can call that an "entitlement" if you choose.  The reality is that millions of Americans lost their jobs during the recession.  Not many if any of the culprits who caused the recession have been charged with fraud.  The unemployed did nothing wrong.  Now, they are finding employment as "temporary workers" with no insurance benefits from their employers.  The Dow had it's 38th high for this year today.  It is up 21% this year.  The people who lost out, all of the millions of them, did not see a 21% increase.  They are working less hours for less pay, and no insurance.  You can write them off as "lazy", "drains on society", etc.; but it is going to come back to bite you in the posterior in the future.  It may not happen in my life, or yours; but it will happen when those people do not have enough to eat, no medical care, and no hope.  That is what starts violent revolutions.  There was one here in the past, and it will not be the last.  I do not want my kids, and grand kids to face that.  Maybe, you don't care; but sensible people care.

Hang on to your right wing ideology, and selfishness as long as you can; but it will bite you, or yours later.  When your demi gods run to Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, or the Bahamas; where are you going to go?

bluegrass wrote on November 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

Sid, you've lost it.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Time will tell if your crowd keeps it's mushroom attitude.  Grown in the dark, and fed manure.

wilsona wrote on November 18, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I think it's hilarious that a clear liberal such as yourself that regurgitates all of the media driven "facts" and doesn't actually know what's going on in the section 8 plagued neighborhoods accuses others of living in the dark and being fed manure.  It'll likely be too late for you when you finally figure out the reality around you.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I doubt that you will read it; but Forbes magazine has a series of articles on-going on the subject.  I doubt that you read Forbes magazine.  It is hardly a "liberal" periodical.  I doubt that you will read the article because it is authored by a contributer to Forbes, Dr. Dale Archer who is a psychiatrist.  However, I will give the link for others who maybe more "reality" based.

www.forbes.com/sites/dalearcher/2013/09/04/could-americas-wealth-gap-lea...

Sorry, it does not come with videos.  You will have to read it if you choose to do it.

whatithink wrote on November 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm

There is no national healthcare plan.  Not everyone qualifies for medicaid and as far as medicare goes, Medicare costs me more with a HMO supplement than any insurance I've ever had before and I'm healthier than most people with little claims, but I want the coverage if ever neccessary.  Maybe that should be fixed.

bluegrass wrote on November 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

It is true that not everyone qualifies for Medicaid or Medicare, but they are, in fact, national healthcare plans.  Yes Medicaid is a state plan, but it is funded in large part by the federal government.

And with all due respect, if you've never paid more in health insurance than you pay for your Med Sup now, then you've been very lucky.  How much do you think it should cost for a Medicare supplement?

Mahometmom wrote on November 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm

I'm confused. We call it Obamacare, so does that mean it is his law and he gets to decide what it says? I know executive powers are to enforce the law. I think I remember that from school house rock. So he is saying we passed this law and these are the parts I'm going to enforce and these are the parts I'm going to ignore. What? I thought it took an act of congress to change a law.

In addition, this quote is so transparent. "What we want to do is to be able to say to these folks, you know what, the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the reason why insurers have to cancel your plan."  If Obama states that we can keep our plan and then changes the way payors (that is healthcare insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, and individuals) pay for services, the government can screw things up behind the scenes enough that the big bad insurance companies are to blame when they have to charge people differently. That is what is happening. Hospitals are switching from fee for service to being paid for outcomes. So obviously they have to renegotiate terms with insurance companies. But we don't think about that, we just get our insurance bill and pay it. Some of this change is good and necessary. Fee for service is part of the problem, but a small part.

The system is broken, but it is not because we don't all have infinite access to all the free healthcare we want. That scenario does not exist in the real world. Hospitals need to make money to reinvest in capital items, to pay doctors, to innovate. Doctors have to be compensated for their work and the many years they spend in school. The first step to fixing this problem is moving the people receiving care closer to the cost of care, not further away. Giving people more control over the insurance they buy, not less. When you show me a 90 year old pregnant man, I will agree that this law and the 'beefed up' insurance it is trying to force on me is a good thing. Until then let people decide how much insurance they need and can afford and let them pay the consequences if they choose poorly. Sure help those that have serious conditions or can't afford it, but get real on the 'can't afford it.' Sometimes people have to prioritize a trip to Disney or insurance. One is fun, one is not. But I don't think I should have to pay for either items for you. Socialized medicine is not the answer and there are too many who want to take in the Country and not enough to give.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 15, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Another "real world" commenter.  If this is not the "real world", what is it?  Who without health insurance goes to Disney?  They are doing good to have a "temporary" job with no benefits, and low pay. 

Again, the Dow has had 38 highs this year.  It is up 21% for the year.  That did not go into the pockets of the under employed.  Nothing should be free; but bringing things back in balance to where things are affordable is reasonable instead of second or third homes with trips to "Disney" for the lords, and ladies.  Remember that "let them eat cake" had consequences in the "real world".

wilsona wrote on November 18, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Sid, First of all in your earlier comments, you blab on about the needs of the people that have lost their jobs as a result of this most recent financial crisis. You fail to realize that most of us "right wing conservatives" aren't upset about that. People without work utilizing services they're not able to afford isn't something new. There happens to be an epidemic in this country that's been going on for years and we simply can't afford to pay for it. There are millions of people in this country that aren't even interested in working at all that have been taking money out of the great big tax kitty that most of is contribute to. That isn't getting any better. People like you now get to pretend like it's all of the unfortunate souls that have lost their jobs that are the problem we're all concerned with.  Those people actually paid taxes and contributed to the pool they're now receiving benefits from. Nobody has an issue with that, so quit pretending that's the group that needs defending here. Now, in your latest comment you've asked who it is that goes to Disney without health benefits. Again, you're attempting to use the minority of people in this situation as your example....the people that have been forced to take low paying jobs without benefits. I know a lot of people that have gone to amusement parks and drive new cars and wear new clothes that have no jobs at all and no health insurance. Most of them have never worked a legit job in their lives and have no plans to do so. They've never been laid off and aren't victims of the corporate corruption. They're everywhere around this town. I grew up with all of them and am now disgusted by the mentality. I, also, grew up with that same mentality but became disgusted with myself at some point in my life and decided to work hard and gain some dignity. If you've never experienced this, Sid, I suggest you stop commenting on these things here utilizing your ignorance in such matters to defend something you know nothing about. Our country is dying...there's a reason and it has nothing to so with this recent recession and the people that have lost their jobs as a result. Get out of your house and look around.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm

How about going to your local IDES office, and interview those who have lost their jobs?  Yes, you are a "right winger"; but not all "conservatives" are as Tea Party as you.  Of course, those people who you know are all of the people who your talking about.  The benefits only last so long for the unemployed.  After that, they become the underemployed.  I get out of my house.  I would suggest that you get your head out of  ......er... your whatever, and pay attention.   

wilsona wrote on November 18, 2013 at 7:11 pm

How many of the thousands of people that have spent their entire lives on section 8 and other forms of welfare will I meet at the IDES office?  I'll answer that for you....zero.  It's funny that people like you that didn't grow up in that welfare environment actually believe that there aren't thousands of people in this community alone that laugh at how easy the benefits are to get without ever trying to work.  You, again, are trying to spin what I'm saying and continue to refer to the "out of work" people that need benefits and calle a tea party type because I don't want those "out of work" people to get benefits.  I support those that have lost their jobs and have contributed to the system they need benefits from.  I stated that earlier.  Of course that didn't fit your inept argument, so you ignored that part of my statement as I'm sure you'll ignore it here as well.  I commented about the people that laugh at you and your naively all the way to the welfare office.  Again, I grew up in that environment and we all laughed at stupid liberals that believed us when we acted like we were helpless and couldn't survive without our benefits.  Then we called all of the conservatives that tried to take out benefits heartless and racist.  You refer to that as "tea party".  Same garbage name calling.  The reality is that it's all a joke and you just can't get that past all of the guilt you have for not growing up within the welfare system.  All you're doing is trapping more and more people with your "benefits".  I call that slavery, but you can call it whatever you like.  I've never felt more free that I have since I've dropped that mentality and began to gain some self respect and work.  I got my head out of my you know what...that's why I work and pay taxes now.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 18, 2013 at 8:11 pm

You make plenty of assumptions.  The welfare community has been with us for years.  My concern is about the people who worked prior to the recession, were laid off, and now are underemployed "temporary workers" without insurance.  That group has grown rapidly since the recession.  They, and I, were workers not takers.  Now, they are losing hope.  They returned to jobs that are low pay without insurance for their families.  They do not qualify for Medicare because they are not old enough, or disabled.  They do not qualify for Medicaid because they know that work is better than welfare, and pays better.  You need to read, or listen the news.  Many of us have family members, or neighbors in that group.  Your idea of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" works for some; but not for the majority.  Fewer employers are hiring full-time employees while they are hiring "temporary" employees.  The reason is to avoid paying "benefits" like insurance.  Affordable insurance has not been available for the working poor.  What happens to that underemployed "temporary" worker group when they give up hope? 

You call me a "liberal" when I am "conservative" on tax money being spent especially on tax breaks for corporations that are doing very well with profits.  I call you a "Tea Party" member in response.  Your right.  I did not grow up in welfare.  I grew up in a Blue Color family.  I worked my way through college by working two part-time jobs while my wife worked full-time.  When I started my job after college, it paid $7,500 a year.  My father made $5,000 working with his hands; and he was happy that I was earning more than him.  I value work; but I do not value greed.   You made assumptions; and initiated an attack on me.  Well, buddy; it goes both ways.  You never did read the Forbes article that I linked for you, did you?  Why don't you spend some time learning instead of attacking on your perceived assumptions?  If you want to fight, back it up with something instead of just mouthing off.  

 

wilsona wrote on November 18, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Not interested in hearing what the media says to get my "facts".  Don't care if they're liberal or conservative.  I look around and see what is actually happening.  In the end, we've lost.  All of us.  The welfare system has been around for years and has been growing exponentially thanks to left wingers feelings.  You all feel so sorry for everyone that you're willing to cripple your own financial ability to help anyone at all.  Congratulations.  You've all won.  You and I will eventually be able to continue this conversation while waiting in line for toilet paper.  I sure hope they have some left when we finally get up there.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 19, 2013 at 1:11 pm

That is what the article explains if you read it.  It explains the growing problem that could lead to a bigger problem.  The big growth is in the temporary worker, and low wage worker markets.  The growth of temporary workers has jumped due to the recession.  They are the people working with no benefits.  Many are lowly paid.  They work one, or two jobs; but still do not qualify for insurance.  They are willing to pay for insurance; but they cannot afford the individual policy instead of a group policy.  I don't care about the politicians.  They are just paid talking heads anyway.  The professional welfare people will always be around; but let us not add the temporary worker to that group.  The question is how to get to affordable insurance for that rapidly growing working poor group.  The problem is a shared problem whether  you are a "liberal", "conservative", democrat, or republican. 

wilsona wrote on November 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Sid,

the welfare problem has always been around, but it's been growing exponentially.  If one woman had 3 kids and the each have 3 kids and so on and so forth, we eventually have more welfare recipients than taxpayers and surprise surprise more people that will vote to continue and expand welfare benefits at the same time.  I realize we have a lot of people that are out of work or underemployed right now.  However, this wouldn't be anywhere near as bi of an issue if we hadn't already spent all of our money on a welfare system that has sucked us dry.  Now we are forced to hurt the honest people that need the benefits.  Very similar to what you takes about before with social security being robbed by politicians and their IOU's.  In this case it was the welfare lifers that robbed the system without even pretending to leave an IOU.  Now the same people that voted to continue to allow welfare to grow and grow and grow until it bled us dry are pissed that there's no money left for people that actually deserve it.  I feel terrible for the people that need the benefits now, but I'm angry that people like myself have been trying to stop this from happening for years only to be demonized by the left.  Now who's the demon?  I'm sure there's some spin that can still demonize us.  Wanna throw it my way?

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 19, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Nope.  I thiink that you summed your thoughts.