If you are one of the estimated 3 to 6 million people who received a notice that your health insurance policy would be canceled, you may have been confused. After the president’s announcement Thursday that insurance companies don’t have to cancel people’s coverage — you may be even more confused.
President Barack Obama said at a press conference that insurers don’t necessarily have to cancel their plans next year, a change in the health reform law which prompted many people whose policies had been canceled to call their insurers with questions.
Many didn’t get a lot of answers.
Elizabeth Sato is 59 years old and has been self-employed for 12 years, when she first opened her Pilates studio in Seattle. She’d been paying $430 a month for an insurance plan through Group Health, and she was happy with it — she’s a healthy, single woman with an already-grown-up kid, and it worked for her.
Then, she got one of those infamous letters, informing her that her current insurance plan was going away. The letter suggested a comparable plan, but the cost would be $740 a month — an increase of more than 70 percent.
She said that if she could keep her insurance, it would be a “godsend,” but Group Health didn't have any answers for her Thursday afternoon.
“It’s hard to believe that someone could wave a magic wand like that and say, ‘OK, you get it back!’ I know they’re trying to fix a bad situation, but I find that hard to believe,” she says — even if the person with the magic wand is the president.
Even insurers are feeling blindsided by the White House. The insurance industry was not consulted before Thursday’s announcement, and it’s now up to individual insurers’ companies to decide whether to extend policies that had already been canceled into next year.
“Now they’re trying to pass that hot potato, the cancellation hot potato, over to the insurance companies, putting them into a logistical nightmare, creating even more of a mess,” Bob Laszewski, a health policy consultant, told NBC News. “The problem with Obamacare right now is the credibility gap this administration has.”
In response to Obama’s new plan allowing people to extend their current health coverage, the insurance industry warned, “Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers,” said a statement from America’s Health Insurance Plans.
Sato voted for Obama, twice, and she still believes in both the president and the Affordable Care Act. But like countless other Americans, she’s frustrated with the messy rollout of the health law.
“It’s just a little hard to take,” Sato says. “I know that there are people less fortunate than me, I know we have to help them, but, boy — I feel like I got punched in the stomach.”
First published November 14 2013, 4:46 PM