White House: Old Policies Won’t Be Cancelled

Over the past couple of weeks, you may have seen in the news that many individual and family health insurance policies were set to be cancelled across the country as a result of healthcare reform. The reason that these policies were going to be cancelled was because they do not conform to new healthcare reform standards. As a result, insurance plans that do not meet certain criteria set forth in the law can no longer be offered, and those that are currently in place need to be changed. This resulted in the cancellation of millions of policies across the nation.

There are a series of newly mandated requirements that all health insurance plans must comply with by January 1st, 2014. If health insurance plans do not adhere to these new requirements, they will no-longer be considered “legal” plans (and will therefore no longer be able to be offered). Here are a couple of the important new mandates that health insurance plans must contain starting on January 1st, 2014:

  1. “10 Essential Health Benefits”: Starting on January 1st, 2014 all plans must contain the “10 Essential Health Benefits,” whether policyholders need them or not.
  2. Minimum Actuarial Value: In addition, on January 1st, 2014, all plans must meet a “minimum actuarial value” of 60%/40% (or Bronze Level Coverage). If plans do not meet this minimum value, they will be considered out of compliance. You can read about the Metallic Levels of Coverage here.

Because of these new mandates, a few things are set to happen:

  • In certain cases, because of new “minimum actuarial value” (#2 listed above)… some current plans’ deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance are going to go down (ie: there will be less cost-sharing for the policyholder).
  • Secondly, additional benefits will be contained in new health insurance plans (#1 listed above: the “10 Essential Health Benefits) making them “richer” plans, which in most cases, will make premiums more expensive outside of the new marketplaces. Explained another way: plans that are purchased without the help of exchange subsidies (off of the exchange) could be more expensive.
  • Lastly, health insurance plans that do not meet these new requirements need to be “phased out.”

The latter of the above listed is one of the unintentional early consequences of the law. Because these “old” plans don’t contain the new mandates, and need to be phased out, many (if not all) of these “old” plans were set to be cancelled.

However, on November 14th, the Obama Administration announced that these old plans could be kept (and reinstated in certain cases) for an additional year (up until December 31st, 2014.) As a result, many people will now get to keep their “old” health insurance plan for an additional year. 

There may be additional changes to come with regard to this concept. There are currently bills being sponsored in Congress that would not only allow policyholders to keep their old plans for an additional year, but also allow insurance companies to continue selling these “old” plans (in addition to the new plans with the new mandates).

There is also speculation that there may be effects on the individual mandate as a result of the cancellation of these plans, and the other additional “hiccups” (ie: problems with the website) while rolling out the law. Some are wondering if these issues will cause the individual mandate to be delayed for an additional year. Be advised to continue to keep up with this topic over the coming weeks and months. 

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