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No Individual Health Insurance Policy Fix for Connecticut

Credit Patrick Skahill / WNPR
Governor Dannel Malloy extended the health care enrollment deadline to December 22.

Individuals who've received cancelation notices on their health insurance policies in Connecticut must now find an alternative. Governor Dannel Malloy said he will not allow insurance companies to renew plans that don't comply with the Affordable Care Act, rejecting President Obama's fix announced last week.

Dave Peck works for Smith Insurance brokers in Niantic. He said this is one of the busiest times he can remember in 30 years in the industry. "These days," he said, "most of the calls have been from individuals whose plans have been discontinued and they're looking for a place to go." If a person looking for coverage is pretty healthy, Peck can find another policy under this year's rules. If a person is a bigger risk, he or she will have to look to next year's plans, which, under the Affordable Care Act, can't deny coverage. "Now it's a question of price," Peck said. "We've seen rate increases up to 100 percent. There's definitely some sticker shock. No question."

The president's about-face on individual policies that don't comply with the Affordable Care Act was supposed to be a response to the hundreds of thousands of people across the country who are receiving cancelation notices. Insurance companies would be allowed to sell those non-compliant plans for one more year, Obama said. But after some clarification, he left it to states to decide whether to adopt the change.

"I understand that Connecticut citizens are frustrated," said Governor Dannel Malloy. "They have a right to be frustrated. But the truth is that the solution offered a week ago by the President won't work in Connecticut." Malloy said it won't work, partly because almost half of individual policies in the state are not affected, and partly because the insurance industry isn't on board. "Of the remaining group that could be potentially impacted, insurers have told the state that they do not plan to continue those policies which are already slated to be replaced."

Malloy did offer some wiggle room for residents who now find they're shopping for coverage unexpectedly. He's instructed the state's health exchange, Access Health CT, to extend the deadline for sign-up for one week to December 22, if you need coverage by January 1.

Just who is and isn't affected isn't easy to decipher, though. That became apparent at a meeting of the legislature's insurance committee, where Deputy Insurance Commissioner Anne Melissa Dowling spent most of her time attempting to explain a complex chart to the lawmakers. Bottom line: the department's estimate is that although 70,000 individual policies in the state are not being renewed, only 16,000 people in Connecticut might have had the chance to renew if the state had adopted the Obama fix and their insurers had agreed.

But Dowling said rates would inevitably have gone up even on those non compliant plans, and the fix would have been temporary. "The fact that this proposal might have only kicked the can down the road for one year, and would not have provided a meaningful or lasting situation, was a very meaningful factor for the state of Connecticut," Dowling said.

Republicans in the state accused the Malloy administration of failing its citizens in not implementing the fix. Representative Robert Sampson said that as far as he's concerned, the numbers don't add up. "The goal of the exchange, and Obamacare in general," he said, "is to keep people from being uninsured. It seems to me we've had some cancelations, and we've had some new sign-ups, but I would venture to guess there are more people uninsured in Connecticut than when we started this."

Connecticut joins New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, who have all made the decision not to adopt the administration's proposal.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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