Bobby Peterson On Health Insurance Cancellation Letters

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Bobby Peterson On Health Insurance Cancellation Letters

Premiere Date: 
November 1, 2013

The ABC For Health exec. director explains why some are getting their insurance cancelled.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

We asked Democratic members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation to join us. They were unable to schedule an interview. But we go to a different perspective on the issue now, with the executive director of ABC for Health. That's a Wisconsin group of public interest lawyers, attorneys who come to the rescue when consumers get dropped or have trouble navigating the healthcare system. They say they've heard from people whose insurance companies have cancelled their plans. Earlier, I sat down with ABC for Health’s Bobby Peterson to talk about the issues this week surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

Have people reached out to you because they've gotten these letters from their insurers that their policies have been dropped due to the Affordable Care Act?

Bobby Peterson:

Yeah. We've heard from some folks.

Frederica Freyberg:

And what's your reaction to that?

Bobby Peterson:

Well, it’s-- You know, it's not a complete surprise because the insurance market is changing all the time. There's a lot of volatility in the individual market. So historically there have been people that change plans quite frequently, looking for better coverage, looking for a cheaper price. So this sort of churning in that market is not unusual. In this situation though it's a confluence of the new ACA coming in and insurance companies deciding to change their products to more-- to better fit the ACA requirements.

Frederica Freyberg:

Because they have to, because there are like ten essential things that the policies have to provide?

Bobby Peterson:

Right. They have to, if they want to meet the new federal requirements. They had an option of maintaining the coverage and being grandfathered. So you know, in a lot of ways, it's a business decision by the insurance companies to drop these older products because they want to upgrade them to meet the new ACA standards.

Frederica Freyberg:

And yet when you, and all of us, repeatedly heard President Obama tell us that if you like your insurance plan, you can keep it, did you know this day was coming?

Bobby Peterson:

You know, you could speculate that it was coming, because if you think about it, the products that the-- The grandfather provision, which is what, you know, President Obama leaned on to say, you'll be able to keep it because if it's grandfathered, you can keep the same coverage. That depended on the insurance industry maintaining that coverage. And to think that they were going to keep these plans into perpetuity was probably wrong. And so the opportunity for them to change, they took it.

Frederica Freyberg:

And so were you kind of advising your clients, and now are you, when they got these letters, well, we might have expected this?

Bobby Peterson:

I think it's more a conversation about, it's the market, it's the new opportunities within the marketplace. And you know, I think trying to look at it from a perspective of there might be options out there for you that are even better. There might be subsidies available, there's better coverage that's available. So you're getting away from the risk puddle and an opportunity to join a bigger pool which in some ways is going to provide you some better security.

Frederica Freyberg:

In terms of this-- these letters going out and the insurance companies blaming it on the ACA, could it be regarded as the fault of the insurance companies and not the Affordable Care Act?

Bobby Peterson:

There's plenty of blame to go around, and I think the insurance companies are conveniently blaming the ACA for this. It was a business decision that they made to drop these plans. And I think that, you know, I don't blame them in some ways because they want to upgrade their policies. And these grandfathered plans were probably getting smaller and smaller. People were getting sicker and sicker. And that's part of the problem with the individual marketplace right now. Getting into the new healthcare.gov when it opens and it works is going to provide better opportunities for pooling for people.

Frederica Freyberg:

And yet a lot of the comments are around, say, single men having to pay for policies that include such things as maternity care. Why are these kind of more robust policies better for everyone?

Bobby Peterson:

Well, you know, I mean, the argument it's better for all of us. I mean, some people never drive a car, but they end up paying something for taxes for roads. Some people never go to the library, but they provide-- they use the library, or police or fire services. Their house never burns down. You know, it's something that we as a society put money in together, and we're better off for that.

Frederica Freyberg:

And so there's that issue of the private insurance companies dropping people or changing their plans dramatically in this individual market, but now there's also the ongoing issue of this miserably-performing website. How bad is that for your clients that you deal with?

Bobby Peterson:

It's bad, and, you know, we're really frustrated, disappointed. We expected there to be some bumps in the road, but this is like a cliff. You know, this isn't a bump. This is devastating for a lot of people. I mean, that's the bad news. The good news is we're reasonably optimistic that we're going to have an opportunity to get people into the marketplace. The secretary and the president have committed to getting it fixed by the end of November. There gives us enough time to enroll people and actually migrate them to better coverage, coverage they haven't had in a long time, that include essential health benefits that they need and deserve.

Frederica Freyberg:

Because there's a population in Wisconsin that are transitioning off BadgerCare and into this new marketplace. What are those people calling and saying?

Bobby Peterson:

Well, the state calls it transitioning. I say they've been terminated from BadgerCare, which is true. They've been terminated, and now they've got to make their way through the marketplace to identify coverage opportunities. Their kids stay on BadgerCare. They have to find new coverage. It's challenging and difficult for them. And I think a lot of people might get lost along the way.

Frederica Freyberg:

What's your advice to them at this point?

Bobby Peterson:

Be patient. Wait for the marketplace to open up and work. Assess your options. Try and stay in the networks that your kids are in because that’s going to promote better opportunities for you and for your family to maintain continuity of coverage and care. And, you know, get some help. Look for help through outside organizations, regional enrollment networks in your area. Your county human services department might be able to help you.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Bobby Peterson, thank you very much.

Bobby Peterson:

Thank you. 


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