Another day, another plot twist in the unfolding story of the Affordable Care Act. Individual and small business health care plans canceled under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may now remain intact for another year, President Obama announced during a speech Thursday morning. But what exactly that means for Alaska remains to be seen.
The decision comes after criticism leveled at Obama regarding a statement he made while promoting the ACA in 2009: "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan."
In October, insurance companies across the country sent out notices that plans would be cancelled and policy holders would be signed up under new plans that meet ACA coverage requirements. Only a portion of plans, those grandfathered into the system for already meeting ACA requirements, would remain in place.
In Alaska, Premera Blue Cross sent out around 5,400 cancellation letters to individual policy holders. Premera is the largest insurance provider in the state, providing health care coverage to around 100,000 Alaskans.
On Thursday, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent out a notice to state insurance divisions that the cancelled plans would now have the option of being renewed in 2014.
The notice states that some people were finding the new plans "more expensive than their current coverage, and some of thus they may be dissuaded from immediately transitioning to (the Federal Marketplace)."
"So state insurance commissioners still have the power to decide what plans can and can't be sold in their states, but the bottom line is insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be cancelled into 2014." Obama said Thursday.
Director of Alaska Division of Insurance Bret Kolb received the notice at 6:30 a.m.
Kolb said his office is trying to determine its authority regarding the federal law and apparently conflicting order issued Thursday from CMS.
"Where does that place us?" He said.
The Alaska Division of Insurance is responsible for reviewing rates and forms that insurance companies use. Now they've been ordered to "let forms into our state that don't comply. That could be problematic," he said.
Melanie Coon, spokesperson with Premera Blue Cross, wrote Thursday that the company was still in the process of figuring out the implications of the order.
Jason Goottee, Alaska Regional Manager for Moda Health, another health insurance provider, said it would not issue any formal statements until it received guidance from the Alaska Division of Insurance.
Kolb hopes to have clear directives in place early next week.
"Unfortunately it's a wait-and-see," he said.