Arizonans with individual health insurance
plans that don't meet new standards under the Affordable Care Act
won't be allowed to renew them after Jan. 1 despite a call from President Barack Obama
for states to allow it, the state Department of Insurance announced Friday.
The department is instead urging the state's
health insurance companies to renew existing plans before the end of the year, a step that would allow non-compliant policies to remain in place for another year.
Insurance Director Germaine Marks said in a statement that changing the rules at this point would just create uncertainty for insurers and consumers.
"We continue to be focused on how the reforms may impact premiums, the solvency of insurers, and the overall health and stability of Arizona's insurance marketplace," Marks said. "To that end, we are confident that this determination helps Arizona insurance consumers consistent with Arizona law."
Last month, Obama called for policies to be extended after an outcry from consumers surprised by insurer notices saying their plans would not be renewed. But states have the final say, and they are split on whether to agree to the change. Across the West, Idaho and Oregon have allowed the practice, while Nevada will not and California is allowing some temporary extensions.
The number of Arizonans with individual policies isn't tracked by the insurance department, so it isn't known exactly how many people may be affected.
At least one of the state's top insurers was already offering early renewals before Friday's announcement and a second was moving policyholders to plans that met the new standards. Those standards include limiting total out-of-pocket costs and a set number of minimum health benefits.Blue Cross Blue Shield
announced last week that it was offering early renewals to about 55,000 individual policyholders, while Health Net was moving 9,000 policyholders to new plans.