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Life Health > Health Insurance > Health Insurance

South Carolina to let insurers extend policies

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolinians who lost their health policies under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will soon learn whether they can keep their plan for another year after all.

The state Insurance Department issued guidelines Tuesday for insurers that want to extend coverage to clients who previously received termination notices.

Millions of policyholders nationwide have received such letters, despite President Barack Obama’s repeated promise that those who like their health plans would be able to keep it under the 2010 overhaul. People learned that, to keep coverage, they needed to switch to a more comprehensive, and often more expensive, policy that meets PPACA coverage standards.

The backlash over canceled plans, including from his own party, caused Obama to establish a new policy Thursday. An arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a memo to state insurance commissioners that it will give state insurance regulators the option of letting insurers keep individual and small-group policies that are not in compliance with PPACA in force in 2014.

“It added a whole lot of confusion to an already confusing issue,” said state Insurance Director Ray Farmer. “We’re trying to make the most sense of it so we can explain it to our carriers and they can provide information to our citizens.”

Farmer estimates the notices affected more than 150,000 people in South Carolina.

State law did not require insurers to provide the data, and the state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina, has refused to publicly say how many notices it sent.

But the Insurance Department will collect detailed numbers as insurers submit their intentions. Carriers must respond by Dec. 2. The agency will then announce which carriers are allowing customers to renew their policies, and which are continuing with termination plans.

Insurers will likely need to update their filings.

“Our department will be on standby,” Farmer said. “We will process those as thoroughly and quickly as possible.”

Farmer said he has yet to receive any formal guidelines from the federal government. However, given the short window between Obama’s announcement and when policies begin to terminate, “we think we need to go ahead and give direction,” Farmer said.

“South Carolina declines to enforce the 2014 market reforms that the federal government will not enforce for these specific policies,” the bulletin reads. “South Carolina will instead enforce its own laws during this transitional period.”

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