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Anthem Delays Cancellation of Individual Coverage

Nov 13, 2013

San Francisco Business Times
Chris Rauber 
November 11, 2013

Anthem Blue Cross is the second major health insurer to delay cancellations of individual coverage in the wake of controversy over Obamacare-related deadlines, Anthem officials confirmed to the San Francisco Business Times late Monday afternoon.

The Business Times broke the news of the latest cancellations earlier this afternoon.

But the delay will involve 104,000 people, not the 92,000 mentioned Monday afternoon by the California Department of Insurance in a media advisory of a press conference Tuesday morning. At that media event, Commissioner Dave Jones is expected to officially announce Anthem's move.

The affected Anthem policyholders will now have until the end of February, rather than year-end, to switch to new policies that are consistent with — or, as the phrase du jour has it, "compliant with" — the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Overall, Anthem reportedly has 760,000 individual or family plan members in California, but many of them are not subject to regulation by the Department of Insurance. That includes so-called grandfathered plans — which can continue if they were in effect before the ACA became law — and non-grandfathered plans, which are the ones that are being required to change.

Broadly speaking, individual and family policies must now be much more comprehensive in what they cover, which in some cases means higher premium costs for policyholders than non-compliant policies that are being discontinued.

The Department of Insurance was able to step in and require the delay because Anthem inadvertently missed the October 1, 2013 deadline to inform some policyholders of the need to move into different policies, due to what an Anthem spokesman said was a "mailing glitch."

The glitch caused a delay in notifying some policyholders before the deadline, 90 days before the changes took effect January 1, 2014.

The move follows in the footsteps of a Blue Shield of California unit last week to delay the termination of coverage for 80,000 policyholders and 113,000 individuals, which led to a wave of controversy.

Up to 1 million of the 1.8 million Golden State residents covered by individual or family plans may have to change health plans at year-end (or shortly thereafter, due to these delays).

As of January, all of Anthem's exchange policies will be under the jurisdiction of the Department of Managed Health Care, not the Department of Insurance, which is taking advantage of a short window of opportunity to force Blue Shield and now Anthem to delay the policy cancellations, which some prefer to call "transitions," since they involve moving from one type of coverage to another one that meets Obamacare requirements.

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