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Aetna also rejects ability to renew plans that have been canceled by ACA

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    President Obama addresses the press regarding the Affordable care Act on Nov. 14, 2013.
    President Obama addresses the press regarding the Affordable care Act on Nov. 14, 2013. - (Whitehouse.gov)

    Aetna became the second health insurer in New Jersey to announce it will not reinstate or extend the health plans that were canceled because they did not comply with the new rules for 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, the company announced Tuesday.

    Aetna, based in Hartford, Conn., has more than 1.1 million members in New Jersey, according to spokeswoman Susan G. Millerick. That includes about 90,000 members in small group plans and about 2,600 members who purchased individual policies.

    "After a thorough review of our 2013 product portfolio in New Jersey, Aetna determined that we could develop significantly more competitive offerings for 2014 that would better serve our small group and individual customers and meet 2014 guidelines," Millerick said.

    "We've worked throughout the year to develop a strong, competitively priced portfolio and we are confident our customers will find value in our offerings for next year.

    "We also believe it will avoid unnecessary complexity and confusion for our customers if we focus on introducing 2014-compliant plans consistently in New Jersey. For these reasons, Aetna, like other carriers in New Jersey, will not be extending our 2013 policies into 2014."

    Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey announced Tuesday they would not renew small employer or individual health plans that don't comply with the ACA. The company covers about 500,000 New Jerseyans in the small group and individual market.

    Horizon said Tuesday the company "has been working to implement the Affordable Care Act for the past three and a half years, and undoing our work and essentially creating new plans in three weeks has proven to be impossible."

    Reuters reported Thursday that Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told an investor meeting that there's not enough time to go through the regulatory process needed to reinstate or extend canceled health plans.

    Last month President Barack Obama told insurers they could extend small group and individual health plans into 2015, whether or not they complied with the ACA.

    In New Jersey, Obama's decision could have potentially impacted the nearly 800,000 people covered through the state's small group and individual markets. But so far, no insurance company followed his suggestion.

    Obama made the concession in the face of a firestorm of criticism from consumers whose old, non-ACA-compliant policies were being canceled by health insurers - despite the president's oft-repeated promise that if Americans liked their health insurance coverage, they could keep it.

    Bertolini said there wasn't enough time to reissue all those old, non-compliant plans nationwide.

    "We talked to the insurance commissioners and the insurance commissioners have agreed with us," Bertolini said. "If we were to go to all those states, refile all those plans, refile all those rates and do it in time for Dec. 23, we would have paid attention to nothing else."

    Consumers must decide by Dec. 23 whether to buy plans on the new ACA exchanges, at healthcare.gov, in order to obtain coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2014.

    The ACA's individual mandate requires most Americans either have health coverage in 2014 or pay a small fine; the exchange provides generous subsidies to low- and moderate-income Americans to help them buy insurance, with subsidies phasing out entirely at four times the federal poverty level, or about $46,000 a year for an individual.

    Aetna is not selling plans in New Jersey on the ACA exchange but it continues to sell policies off the exchange, in the traditional health insurance market.

    Bertolini told investors the ACA public exchanges, now under attack by Republicans, will survive the technology issues.

    "By 2015, if we get it fixed right, it'll be a new start," he said.

     
     

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    Beth Fitzgerald

    Beth Fitzgerald

    Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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