Missouri offers insurance-policy exemption for 2014

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday that Missourians who have health insurance from the individual and small group markets in the state can keep the insurance in 2014, even if it doesn’t comply with standards laid out in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Today’s announcement seeks to address the recent uncertainty and disruptions policyholders have faced as a result of federal regulations and is yet another example of how states are better-positioned to provide efficient and effective oversight of the insurance market,” Nixon said.

The announcement mirrors one made last week by President Barack Obama.

Obama had promised during his Obamacare campaign that Americans could keep their health insurance from the individual market if they liked it.

Many Americans received cancellation notices from their insurance companies in the past month, saying their plans weren’t compliant with the ACA and therefore would be terminated for 2014.

Obama apologized to the nation last week for breaking his promise and said individuals could keep the insurance for 2014, as long individual state commissioners agreed.

Missouri Department of Insurance Director John M. Huff did just that.

“In an effort to give Missourians as many insurance options as possible, the department will expedite the process for health insurance companies wishing to continue their Missouri-compliant plans into next year,” Huff said. “The department has not identified any Missouri law prohibiting this coverage to continue, so we will continue to communicate with affected Missouri insurance companies to ensure that the best interests and needs of the consumers are met.”

Nixon’s announcement came the same day Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack told reporters many people younger than 65 who recently received cancellation notices from their health insurers would be eligible for subsidies to purchase insurance from the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The reasoning comes from a study conducted by Families USA, a national organization for health care consumers.

According to the study, Missouri has slightly more than five million residents younger than 65. Of those five million, nearly 350,000 purchase their own individual health coverage. That’s 6.8 percent of the population.

Seventy-three percent of those with individual coverage have an income at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which would qualify them to receive subsidies to purchase health insurance from the Health Insurance Marketplace through the ACA.

Pollack said studies have shown that nationally, slightly more than a third of those with individual coverage in the past have retained that coverage for more than a year.

“Our estimate is that only approximately .6 percent of the non-elderly are at risk of losing their current individual health coverage and not receiving financial help to purchase a new plan,” Pollack said.

He said it’s natural that people should be concerned about this, but it’s important to put it in perspective.

“It’s important to put in perspective about the small portion of the population that might be adversely affected,” Pollack said. “That number is a tiny fraction of the 65 million non-elderly people with preexisting health conditions who will gain new protections through the Affordable Care Act. It is also a small fraction of the tens of millions of uninsured Americans who can also get help for new health coverage.”

This article expands upon earlier coverage of the initial announcement.

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