Colo. to end ACA exception for 190K people

9 News

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Washington, DC, March 16, 2015 | By Brandon Rittiman | comments

About 190,000 Coloradans will lose access next year to health insurance plans which don't comply with the Affordable Care Act, the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) decided.

In March of 2014, President Barack Obama decided to give states the option of allowing people on noncompliant health plans to be grandfathered in by renewing their old plans early, while problems with insurance exchanges were ironed out.

Colorado insurance commissioner Marguerite Salazar opted to do that for 2015, but told 9NEWS on Friday that the exception is no longer needed for plans in 2016, even though Colorado could have continued them an additional year.

"By delaying it, it doesn't give us a good pathway into full implementation of the ACA," Salazar told 9NEWS. "I feel like we gave people that year, we have a great robust market in terms of health insurance in Colorado."

Salazar said she consulted with Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) before making the decision and says she heard passionate arguments for and against ending the noncompliant plans a year earlier than required.

Among the most powerful arguments, she said, came from business people who wanted a stronger risk pool for health insurance in the state.

Republicans think it's foolish not to allow the plans to continue for another year if the Obama administration would have allowed it, especially in light of technical glitches with Connect for Health Colorado, the state insurance exchange, in the last open enrollment which affected automatic renewals and subsidy determinations.

"I think it's horrible," said Senate President Bill Cadman, "They disregarded an opportunity to protect Coloradans."

"I would have expected a waiver to be granted so those people's needs would be put first, not supporting the failed policy of this administration," Cadman said.

"President Obama lied to the American people when he said 'if you like your plan you can keep your plan' and now Colorado families are being forced to bear the burden of that lie," Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) wrote to 9NEWS. "As someone who signed up for health insurance on the Obamacare exchange, and knows firsthand how terrible the Obamacare coverage is, I am deeply disappointed that thousands of families are being forced to leave the plans they liked."

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) said in a press release that he was "appalled" at the decision and urged DOI to reconsider.

Salazar, a non-voting member of the board of Connect for Health, says there's enough time to make the state exchange work better before the next open enrollment period this fall.

"We've got several months now to work out a lot of those systems issues and technological problems," Salazar said. "We're working on those every day."

About 75,000 of the people who would lose the ability to renew their noncompliant plans next year are covered on individual plans, while 115,000 are on plans through work at small businesses.

Cancellation notices will go out to Coloradans covered under grandfathered plans at least 90 days before they end and must include information about ACA-compliant alternatives being offered by the company.

Companies are barred from automatically transferring those customers into compliant plans, DOI officials said.

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