Six months of ObamaCare: Two Minnesota insurers stop selling individual policies
posted at 9:30 am on September 24, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
If you like your policy, you can keep your policy meets We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it right here in Minnesota as ObamaCare hits its six-month mark. Two major insurers have decided to suspend sales of individual policies rather than run the compliance gauntlet in the health-care overhaul bill, today’s Pioneer Press reports. Why? No one really knows what the rules actually are:
Bloomington-based HealthPartners says it is temporarily suspending sales of individual health insurance policies due to uncertainty created by the new federal law.
Congress passed health reform six months ago, but starting today new health insurance policies must comply with key provisions of the legislation.
In Minnesota, that’s meant changes to health plan policies that regulators at the Minnesota Department of Commerce must approve before companies can sell policies to new customers. The state hasn’t signed off on changes because the Commerce Department needs more guidance on certain new federal rules, said Amy Von Walter, a spokeswoman for HealthPartners.
“Due to continuing changes caused by health care reform, we temporarily have no long term individual medical plans for sale” the insurance company says in a notice on its website. “We are currently working with regulators to get affordable products approved to sell as quickly as possible.”
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota also is waiting for final approval before it can resume sales of its health plans for individuals, said Pam Lux, a spokeswoman for the Eagan-based insurer.
Instead of relieving the uncertainty by passing ObamaCare, the administration and Congress has made the environment so uncertain that insurers can’t even sell their plans — regardless of whether they comply with the mandates. This doesn’t affect people with existing plans, who will be able to renew their coverage. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for as many as 3 million seniors with supplemental prescription coverage for their Medicare plans, who will lose their existing plans and have to pay significantly more to switch:
Millions of seniors face double-digit hikes in their Medicare prescription premiums next year unless they shop for cheaper coverage, a new analysis of government data finds.
Premiums will go up an average of 10 percent among the top 10 drugplans that have signed up about 70 percent of seniors, according to an analysis of Medicare data by Avalere Health, a private research firm. …
More than 3 million seniors will see their plans discontinued, according to Avalere. Medicare says all but 300,000 will be seamlessly switched to another plan offered by the same insurer, but the Avalere data suggest it may not be that simple.
Medicare “is really reshaping the market,” said Mendelson. “There are a lot of plans that are shutting down.”
The largest plan being discontinued came from an organization that publicly campaigned for ObamaCare passage — the AARP. Their MedicareRX Saver plan, which offered a lower-cost premium in return for reduced coverage, will shut down in a week. Consumers will get routed to their more-expensive Preferred plan, which costs almost 15% more. It has better “doughnut hole” coverage, but until ObamaCare passed, consumers could choose for themselves which plan best fit their needs. Now, the 1.5 million in the Savers plan — who apparently didn’t buy enough prescription medication to need the Preferred plan — will enter the risk pool of the larger plan.
And what about the people already in the Preferred plan? Their premiums will actually drop 11%. Why? Because AARP can now forcibly transfer the low-risk pool into that plan and spread the costs over more people. The Savers seniors essentially will subsidize the Preferred seniors. The only way that the Savers seniors can avoid that is to find a new plan, but thanks to ObamaCare, the choices are rapidly disappearing.
Seniors will be getting this news a month before the midterm elections, as will others impacted by decisions like those made by Minnesota insurers. It’s practically timed to enrage the electorate in an already volatile election cycle. That’s the part of ObamaCare that Democrats will be discovering in five weeks.