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North Coast policyholders hope to keep health insurance with Obamacare change

By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Facing a big jump in the cost of her health insurance, Ellyn Moscowitz of Jenner said she was heartened by President Barack Obama’s decision Thursday, to allow some people to keep their health plans for one more year, but she worried about how it will play out.

“I think it’s great,” said Moscowitz, a semi-retired attorney who was among the nearly 220,000 Californians who received cancellation notices from two of the state’s largest insurers, compounded by sticker shock over the cost of a replacement policy.

Health care“You can’t leave millions of Americans like me in a bad situation,” she said.

The Blue Shield of California policy she bought two years ago cost $438 a month and covered all but $2,000 of $52,000 in charges for three days at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital last month due to a sudden illness.

A comparable plan from Anthem Blue Cross — available through the state insurance exchange, Covered California — will cost $698 a month, a 60 percent increase, and would have left her with an obligation of more than $6,000 for the same hospital treatment.

Blue Shield agreed last week to extend 115,000 policy cancellations in California by three months, from Dec. 31 to March 31, and on Thursday Obama gave insurers the option of continuing current plans through 2014.

That’s where Moscowitz’s enthusiasm wavered.

“I’m still nervous until I hear from Blue Shield,” she said. “Companies can allow us to keep what we have, but they don’t necessarily have to.”

“I really want to keep the plan I’ve got,” Moscowitz said, echoing the sentiments of millions of Americans.

Mike Fitzpatrick, a Windsor general contractor, saw some political expediency in the president’s action.

“He put it off until after the election,” Fitzpatrick said. “You kick the can down the road.”

Fitzpatrick received a cancellation notice from Anthem Blue Cross in September on the plan for him and his wife that cost $588 a month.

Anthem suggested a plan with a premium of $945 a month, and Fitzpatrick said he found a plan at Covered California for $840 — an increase of more than $3,000 a year.

“That’s $3,000 that won’t stay in our local economy,” he said. “You have to have insurance.”

Anthem, which issued 104,000 year-end cancellations in California, had agreed to postpone them until Feb. 28.

Moscowitz and Fitzpatrick were by no means alone as a previously unpublicized economic consequence of the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature domestic legislation, punctured the president’s credibility and threatened Democratic Party prospects in the 2014 election.

About 60 percent of the people covered by individual or family health plans — as opposed to group plans — are going to see double-digit premium increases when they sign up for insurance mandated by the law, Santa Rosa insurance broker David Hodges said.

“You are not going to like the exchange at all,” Hodges said, noting two exceptions: low-income people who qualify for insurance subsidies and those who are paying a premium for a pre-existing condition.

Current insurance plans typically cap out-of-pocket payments at $3,000 to $4,000 for individuals and $6,000 to $8,000 for families, Hodges said.

The exchange offers policies with caps of $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families, in many cases doubling the out-of-pocket risk for a family with high medical bills, he said.

Hodges said the increased costs are a result of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that health plans meet new standards, including pediatric dental and mental health care, free services for women such as mammograms and contraception, no coverage limits on essential benefits and no exclusion of pre-existing conditions.

That’s why Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California initially cancelled 219,000 policies statewide, effective Dec. 31.

Anthem provides 47 percent of the individual health plan enrollment in California, and Blue Shield accounts for 21 percent, according to a California Healthcare Foundation report this year.

Individual plans cover nearly 1.6 million people, or 12 percent of the state’s private insurance market, dwarfed by the 13 million people enrolled in group plans, the report said.

“Allowing consumers to stay in their existing plans longer is the right thing to do for policyholders, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said last week, after both companies granted the extensions.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, hailed Obama’s decision to allow insurance companies a one-year extension on plans that do not meet Affordable Care Act standards.

“This was a promise that was made and it is a promise that should be kept,” Thompson, whose district includes Santa Rosa, said in a written statement.

“I’ve said from the beginning that the health care reform law isn’t perfect,” he said. “But instead of engaging in partisan bickering and playing blame games, I want to work to make health care reform better.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement that Obama’s action recognized that “some people feel strongly about keeping their current plans,” while the option of buying a new plan through the exchange “remains available and viable.”

Feinstein is one of five co-sponsors of Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s bill titled Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act.

The bill, which Feinstein described as a “simple fix to a complex problem,” requires insurance companies to maintain indefinitely all individual insurance plans on the market as of Dec. 31.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.





9 Responses to “North Coast policyholders hope to keep health insurance with Obamacare change”

  1. GAJ says:

    Yes Big Jim, this plan is being paid for by the younger healthier people.

    The biggest beneficiaries are Baby Boomers like me, retired, mid 50′s, high net worth but low adjusted gross income.

    Was paying $16,000 before and now will be paying $6,000 for better coverage for my wife and I.

    $6,000 is still a lot but it troubles me that my generation has found yet another way to stick it to younger generations.

    We, sadly, continue to saddle them with our expenses at every turn and they will be paying for our profligacy long after we are gone.

    We will not be remembered as the “greatest generation” that’s for sure.

  2. Big Jim says:

    It is not just private insurance buyers getting shocks, a major local employer just completed open enrollment for 201 and cancelled the best option available due to ACA, with the remaining options having much higher out of pocket costs per year. Thanks a lot Obama! Covering the millions of low paid nad sick is not free! If you are middle class now, get ready to say hello to the poor house.

  3. James Bennett says:

    The last nail in the coffin for the middle class?
    That’s part of the idea.
    http://www.activistpost.com/2013/11/obamacare-final-nail-in-coffin-for.html

  4. James Bennett says:

    Problem/Reaction/Solution…
    the Hegelian Dialectic.
    The almost mathematical formula for oppression.

    They synthesize a ‘problem’.

    This evokes fear.
    Fear creates physiological changes in our body, and makes us more receptive to the power of suggestion. A ‘Solution’.

    The ‘Solution’ in our current paradigm invariably brings more controls.

    Biggest examples:
    ‘Global Warming”.
    9/11.

    Obamacare/’The Affordable Care Act’ is supposed to be an abysmal failure.
    I just thought it would take longer.

    But.

    TPTB (global elite) are in a big hurry, they’re behind schedule.

    They want a single payer totalitarian government run system.
    Ultimately one in which they pick winners and losers, based on the serfs adherence to their tyranny. The expense of keeping them alive. Mandatory chipping and poisonous vaccines, etc..

    Kinda like the Fall of ’08.

    The inference will be:
    ‘see, capitalism, free market doesn’t work’.
    The free market didn’t fail. A molested, orchestrated market was deliberately crashed. They’re ‘gonna do it again too.

    UN Agenda 21:
    A complete Plan for complete control. Cradle to grave.
    Education, production, economy, resources, land use, communication/media/information, and…
    healthcare.

  5. The Hammer says:

    If you believe the crap this guy is telling you and putting your hope with his BS, then I have a golden bridge that I can sell you really cheap. I’ll make you millions everyday.

  6. Paulo says:

    People, we just need to immediately get rid of all of this healthcare red tape, evil insurance companies and greedy doctors.

    Release the chains that are holding Obama back and let his dream of socialized single payer healthcare without the insurance companies run our healthcare and keep us healthy and safe.

    He has done a great job so far so lets let him finish his dream and free healthcare for all.

    I happy paying $1200 for my new plan. I was paying $425 a month for that old plan that I didn’t realize was so unhealthy until the government told me it was a lemon. I like the government deciding what is good for me, don’t you?

    Here is to the new way and happy doctor visits. I just signed up for my 8 month wait with my GP but that is sure worth the wait in the new system.

  7. Follower says:

    While I’ve always had disdain for his political policies I’ve also always thought he was truly a good man.

    And even though he’ll have to live the rest of his life with a stained Presidential legacy, at least Jimmy Carter can go to his grave knowing that he won’t be remembered as the worst President in modern American history anymore.

  8. steve humphrey says:

    “North Coast policyholders HOPE to keep health insurance with Obamacare CHANGE”

    Well now we know what the President meant by hope and change.

  9. Reality Check says:

    Nothing could better illustrate the disconnect between Washington and business than this fiasco. Obama and friends are clueless. Do they really think any business wants to continue selling a product in which they are prevented from attracting new customers or changing in any way? Apparently so. What a mess.