KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Consumers Losing Their Health Policies Could Become Potent Political Force

Several news stories examine how this group is adept at generating attention, especially among its elected representatives.

The San Francisco Chronicle: Why So Many Face Shifts In Medical Insurance
Despite President Obama's oft-stated promise that you can keep your insurance if you like it, most people with individual policies will have to get a new one in 2014 because their existing one does not comply with the myriad requirements of the Affordable Care Act and therefore must be terminated. Companies that discontinue a policy must offer customers a new one that complies. One exception: If a person had a policy before the act was signed in March 2010, and that plan has not changed, that person is considered grandfathered and can keep the existing policy as long as the company offers it. In California, no existing policies comply with the act, according to Janice Rocco, the state's insurance commissioner (Pender, 11/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Outspoken Group Bears Brunt Of Canceled Health-Insurance Policies
Somebody has to pay more to enable America's uninsured to take part in the Obama administration's health-insurance marketplace—somebody like Dave Hamilton, for example. Unfortunately for the Obama administration, Mr. Hamilton and others in his situation tend to be politically savvy and very vocal. ... He is one of the 10 million or so who buy insurance on the individual market, don't qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act and recently received notice that their current plans don't comply with the law's standards and will be canceled. Mr. Hamilton, 42, said he expected to pay more. But his rates are expected to rise by far more than the 20% he had calculated (Williamson, 11/1).

The Washington Post: For Consumers Whose Health Premiums Will Go Up Under New Law, Sticker Shock Leads To Anger
Americans who face higher insurance costs under President Obama's health-care law are angrily complaining about "sticker shock," threatening to become a new political force opposing the law even as the White House struggles to convince other consumers that they will benefit from it. The growing backlash involves people whose plans are being discontinued because the policies don't meet the law's more-stringent standards. They're finding that many alternative policies come with higher premiums and deductibles (Cha and Sun, 11/3).

Politico: Obamacare Losers Could Pack Political Punch
Meet the new Soccer Mom: Obamacare losers. Millions of married, older, white, college-educated, GOP-leaning Americans have quickly seen their political profile rise after their health insurance companies sent them cancellation letters with the launch of the giant new health care law. It's not a huge segment of the population — estimates show between 10 million to 19 million people bought health insurance from what Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius dubbed the "Wild West" individual marketplace. But the ones who are making the most anti-Obamacare noise are part of this group (Samuelsohn and Millman, 11/1).

The Associated Press: Sticker Shock Often Follows Insurance Cancellation
The Griffins are among millions of people nationwide who buy individual insurance policies and are receiving notices that those policies are being discontinued because they don't meet the higher benefit requirements of the new law. They can buy different policies directly from insurers for 2014 or sign up for plans on state insurance exchanges. While lower-income people could see lower costs because of government subsidies, many in the middle class may get rude awakenings when they access the websites and realize they'll have to pay significantly more. Those not eligible for subsidies generally receive more comprehensive coverage than they had under their soon-to-be-canceled policies, but they'll have to pay a lot more (Kennedy, 11/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Aides Debated Obama Health-Care Coverage Promise
As President Barack Obama pushed for a new federal health law in 2009, he made a simple pledge: If you like your insurance plan, you can keep your plan. But behind the scenes, White House officials discussed whether that was a promise they could keep. ... At one point, aides discussed whether Mr. Obama might use more in-depth discussions, such as media interviews, to explain the nuances of the succinct line in his stump speeches, a former aide said. Officials worried, though, that delving into details such as the small number of people who might lose insurance could be confusing and would clutter the president's message (Nelson, Nicholas and Lee, 11/2).

Kaiser Health News: In Alabama, Lack Of Competition May Be Behind Insurance Premium Costs
The letters landed in early October, cancelling health plans for thousands of BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama members and offering to enroll them in new coverage at often substantially higher cost. "I thought my plan might go up like $30. I didn't know it was going to [nearly] double" to $478 a month, said Merry Hardy, who is self-employed and lives in Alexander City, in the middle of the state. "I'm thinking, please God, let Obamacare fail" (Hancock, 11/4).

The Associated Press: Health Law Leads To Cancellation Of N.D. Policies
About 42,500 North Dakota residents, or roughly 6 percent of the state, were covered by individual plans at the end of 2013, according to state insurance records. In North Dakota, the health care changes will wipe out virtually all the 2,500 individual plans carried by Medica and Sanford Health. Blue Cross Blue Shield North Dakota, the state's largest insurer, covered more than 32,000 through individual plans last year, and would not disclose how many of its customers' current plans will be discontinued (11/3).

The Associated Press/The Wall Street Journal: NY Expects 100,000 To Change Insurance
New York health officials say that about 100,000 individuals will have to change their health insurance under the federal health care overhaul. According to the state Health Department, those changes are required where current insurance plans don't comply with the terms of the Affordable Care Act (11/2).

The Sacramento Bee: In California, Hundreds Of Thousands To Pay More For Health Insurance
Hundreds of thousands of Californians who purchase their own health insurance are bracing to pay more for their plans, as the cost of the federal health care overhaul lands harder on middle-class customers. Notices began arriving in recent weeks informing consumers that their plans are being phased out and replaced with policies that comply with requirements of the health care law. Many are being told to expect double-digit percentage increases in monthly costs, in part to help balance the cost of covering the underprivileged and those with pre-existing medical conditions who may not have had coverage (Cadelago, 11/4).

The Associated Press: Health Care Plans Ending For 26K New Mexicans
Nearly 26,000 New Mexicans are having health plans terminated at the end of the year because the insurance policies fail to provide expanded benefits and other coverage mandated by a federal health care law, according to insurance industry officials. State Insurance Superintendent John Franchini estimates most of those individual policyholders will pay an average of 35 percent more for new coverage, but will have plans with more health care benefits (Massey, 11/2).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.