Insurance canceled for 2,600 in state

Nov 1, 2013 By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

Replacement plans promise better coverage with lower rates or subsidies to help pay premiums.

CHEYENNE -- Private insurers have told the state of Wyoming that they plan to cancel more than 2,600 health insurance policies for state residents largely because of increased regulation and higher minimum standards set by the federal Affordable Care Act.

Wyoming Insurance Commissioner Tom Hirsig said Thursday that most of the cancellations will take effect in December and March. Other companies already have canceled more than 500 health policies in the state, mostly earlier this year. More cancellations could come as federal deadlines kick in early next year.

"Any of these plans that are cancelling, they wouldn't be withdrawing if not for the Affordable Care Act," Hirsig said.

The federal act sets minimum standards for acceptable insurance coverage and costs.

Hirsig says many customers whose policies are being canceled would qualify for federal subsidies to get approved health insurance under the act. However, he said it's unclear when government-approved coverage will be available.

President Barack Obama's administration has come under harsh criticism for problems with the federal health care website. Not only is it supposed to provide access to approved health care plans, it's also supposed to calculate the amount of allowable tax credits to help people afford coverage based on their income.

Administration officials now say they expect problems will be resolved by the end of November.

"If the exchange is not functional to dole out those subsidies, and today it's not, what are those people going to do?" Hirsig said. "Can they afford a new plan without a subsidy? That's going to be the question."

Federal subsidies promise to be especially important in Wyoming. It's the nation's least-populated state, with about 560,000 people. It also faces some of the nation's highest prices for federally approved health care plans.

The national average cost for a monthly premium "silver" plan would be $774 for a family of four making $50,000 a year. In Wyoming, that rate would be $1,237 before allowable tax credits, according to federal figures.

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