October 31, 2013

Hudgens: Numerous insurance cancellations possible

By CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY, Associated Press

ATLANTA — As many as 400,000 Georgia residents who buy their own insurance could receive cancellation notices or see their plans modified as a result of the Affordable Care Act, state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said Wednesday.

Hudgens spokesman Glenn Allen said the figures were based on internal estimates, and there was no way to tell at this point how many of those would have their policies cancelled outright. Allen could not say whether those losing their health plan could expect an increase or decrease in premiums under a different plan. Some plans may be grandfathered in under the law.

Lawmakers have raised concerns about the cancellations in addition to problems with the rollout of the government’s health care website. In recent days, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner have been questioned during congressional committee meetings about why so many individuals and businesses have been receiving the cancellation notices.

Tavenner blamed insurance companies for cancelling the policies and said most people will be able to find a better and possibly less expensive plan. Sebelius said the website problems will be fixed by the end of November.

Allen said the plans in Georgia were cancelled because they did not meet requirements under the federal health care law.

State Sen. Minority Leader Steve Henson said the plans under the Affordable Care Act were designed to meet minimum standards.

“I’m certainly concerned about people who have insurance plans now that don’t meet minimum standards. But I am hopeful they will be able to find alternative plans that will meet their needs and hopefully save them money.” He also said the percentage of people who buy their own insurance remains a small portion of Americans with health insurance.

Hudgens has been a strong critic of the health care law, along with Gov. Nathan Deal, who voted against it when he was a congressman representing north Georgia. Deal has declined the option under the law to expand Medicaid, saying the state cannot afford the long-term costs of adding an estimated 650,000 low-income Georgia residents to the program.

Recently, Hudgens posted information about the law on his agency’s website. Deal said Tuesday it was a good idea but those seeking assistance from the federal government may not end up getting it because of the problems.

“I am not confident at this point in time they are going to get the answers they expect when they finally get connected,” Deal said.

———

Follow Christina Almeida Cassidy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP—Christina.