After Obama Flip-Flop, California Stays Course On ACA

After Obama Flip-Flop, California Stays Course On ACA

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California has decided to ignore President Obama’s about-face last week allowing insurance companies to offer substandard policies – plans that do not meet the new minimum federal requirements under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)-- to their customers for another year.

Earlier today, the board of Covered California, the state’s online marketplace, unanimously voted to uphold its Dec. 31, 2013 deadline for health insurance companies to discontinue plans that do not meet the basic requirements of the health care law, set to fully launch on Jan. 1, 2014.

Over the last month, hundreds of thousands of consumers in California, as well as the rest of the nation, received letters from their insurers telling them that their policies would be canceled on Dec. 31, 2013 because they do not comply with the requirements of the ACA.

The cancellations enraged policy-holders, who accused President Obama of breaking his original promise that people who liked their existing plans would be able to keep them under the ACA. It also provided fodder for Republicans, who have all along been threatening to upend the law, or not fund it.

To placate them all, Obama flip-flopped, securing for himself in the process some political relief, but throwing insurers into confusion because they now had to reformulate their carefully laid out plans to move people from weak insurance policies to strong ones.

But California, which had all along been at the forefront of implementing the ACA, and whose own marketplace website did not face the serious glitches the new federal insurance website did, continued pushing forward. Like Covered California, the federal website allows consumers to shop for policies online. Its problems were in recent weeks overshadowed by the snowballing controversy over the policy cancellations.

After a slow start, Covered California has begun experiencing a surge in applications. A press release issued today by the agency said the number of applications for its online marketplace has reached more than 10,000 a day, and that as of Nov.16, 71,188 applications were completed.

The board said that extending the deadline by another year offered no benefit to the consumer, and may in fact create confusion about accessing affordable health care coverage through the marketplace.

It promised to send information to the nearly 1.3 million individuals who received cancellation notices. That information would be sent both from Covered California, as well as the individual’s current insurance provider.

And starting Nov. 25, consumers could call a hotline, (855) 857-0445, with enrollment questions.

“The consumer is front and foremost in Covered California’s policy decision process,” asserted Covered California executive director Peter V. Lee, after the vote was taken. “These new strategies will provide consumers a better enrollment experience, more flexibility in the selection of a plan and, most importantly, increased knowledge with which to make the best health coverage choice possible.”