More than 3,000 Mainers are set to lose their current health insurance plans due to President Barack Obama’s unpopular and controversial health care law.
The newest round of cancellations has affected or will affect nearly 400 small businesses and 3,289 employees and family members. According to the Maine Bureau of Insurance and a form letter from one major insurance company, the cancellations have been spurred by provisions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, which dictate what type of insurance plans employers can offer employees.
This latest cancellations in the small-group market have been staggered throughout the year due to the nature of small group insurance market renewals. Cancellations in the small-group market follow the more than 12,000 cancelled plans in Maine’s individual market. Industry experts say the trend will continue until well after 2016.
The widespread cancellation of insurance plans flies in the face of Obama’s now-infamous promise: “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period.” Politifact dubbed that promise the “Lie of the Year“.
The president attempted to prevent the damage by proclaiming last November that Americans would, in fact, be allowed to keep their plans. But his proclamation did not carry the force of law. The decision had to be approved first by state insurance regulators and then by individual insurance companies.
The Maine Bureau of Insurance decided to allow insurers to continue offering non-compliant plans on the small group market for a limited time frame, but only two of three major small group insurers went along with the decision.
Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and Harvard Pilgrim were the two small group insurers who have allowed the renewal of non-compliant small group plans. But Aetna will be canceling small group plans that don’t comply with the ACA.
“Once that federal announcement was made earlier this year, and Aetna decided to discontinue its non ACA compliant plans, Aetna indicated that 369 policies covering 3,289 lives would not be offered their current plan at renewal time and would instead be offered a fully ACA compliant metal plan,” said Doug Dunbar, director of legislative and media affairs for Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.
In a letter to those affected by the change, Aetna says the following: “The ACA requires us to make significant changes to the health benefits plan designs that we offer to employers with 50 or fewer employees. We are replacing our entire small employer portfolio with new health benefit plans that comply with the 2014 ACA requirements. While we cannot renew your existing plan in 2014, you have many new options available to meet your health benefits needs.”
Although a number of factors make it difficult to draw apples-to-apples comparisons between pre- and post-ACA plan costs, the new ACA-compliant plans will probably be more expensive for the majority of employers, as the ACA stipulates more expansive coverage. Additionally, Aetna’s customers will not be eligible for federal subsidies should they continue to purchase ACA-compliant plans through the company.
According to MBI, Aetna’s plans will be entirely “off” the exchange, which means Aetna’s subscribers will not be eligible for tax subsidies through ObamaCare. If a business owner decides it is too expensive to continue offering health insurance, employees may be dumped onto the federal health insurance exchange.
Although Anthem and Harvard Pilgrim have avoided plan cancellations in the short-term, their small group benefit plans will eventually have to comply with ObamaCare. It is unclear how long these so-called “transitional” plans will be allowed to last. That means 19,508 people covered through Anthem and 22,530 people covered through Harvard Pilgrim will inevitably lose their current plans.
Joel Allumbaugh, health care policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center, said the cancellation trend will continue beyond 2016.
“The promise was that you could keep your current health plan if you like it,” said Allumbaugh. “The truth is that everyone will lose their health plan at some point during the rollout of Obamacare and many will face replacement options with higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs.”
According to recent polling, ObamaCare remains unpopular among Maine voters and will likely impact elections across the state.
Eighty percent of likely Maine voters say a candidate’s position on ObamaCare will influence their vote this fall, according to a poll released Monday by the Foundation for Government Accountability. According to the poll, 62 percent of unenrolled voters say they are unlikely to support a pro-ObamaCare candidate.
Other major polling houses have also shown Mainer’s opinion of ObamaCare to be negative. According to Rasmussen’s latest Maine poll, 45 percent of likely voters view the health care law favorably, while 48 percent have an unfavorable view of the law, including 32 percent whose opinion of ObamaCare is “very unfavorable.”
According to Real Clear Politics polling average, opposition to ObamaCare nationally is running high. The RCP average shows American oppose the law by a 12.3 percent margin.
The unpopularity of ObamaCare could play a role in Maine’s gubernatorial election. Republican Gov. Paul LePage has been a staunch critic of the president and his health care policies. LePage’s Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, on the other hand, voted for ObamaCare and claims to have read the entire bill.
Open enrollment at Healthcare.gov begins November 15 and runs until February 15.
Here’s a copy of the form letter Aetna has sent out to employers throughout the year. This letter was obtained from the Maine Bureau of Insurance: