Request to Allow Missouri Consumers the Freedom to Keep the Health Plan

This morning I sent the following letter to Director John Huff at the Department of Insurance requesting the Department to reverse course and allow Missouri consumers the freedom to renew their existing health plans free from Obamacare mandates:

Dear Director Huff:

In the past few weeks, millions of Americans have suffered cancellation of their existing health insurance policies as a result of the Affordable Care Act. In many states, the impact of these new regulations was mitigated by state departments of insurance which allowed health insurance consumers to renew their policies early – thus giving those policies “grandfather” status for approximately another year and avoiding cancellations. Unfortunately, Missourians did not have that option. In fact, according to the New York Times, Missouri was one of just seven states that refused to allow early renewals to avoid the blunt impact of Affordable Care Act mandates.[1] 

This was the result of Bulletin 13-01, a directive of the Department which warned health insurers that the Department would interpret three statutes to prohibit early renewals – even at the consumer’s option. To my knowledge, these statutes had never been interpreted in such a manner. While the Department’s position is a colorable interpretation, it is at least equally reasonable for the Department to conclude that renewals at a consumer’s option are legal. In addition, when interpreting ambiguous statutes, I believe the best policy position for the Department is to choose the path which permits the greatest amount of consumer freedom.

I write today in light of the spate of recent cancellations around the country and ask you to reconsider, rescind, and replace Bulletin 13-01 with a new Bulletin reversing the Department’s interpretation of the relevant statutes. Doing so quickly would give as many Missourians as possible the opportunity to renew their policies before their cancellation at the end of the year – mitigating some of the negative impacts of the Affordable Care Act. I will also be pre-filing legislation to (1) clarify the meaning of “renewal” in these statutes, and (2) require the Department to allow consumers to renew existing plans. I look forward to hearing your response regarding the request to immediately rescind Bulletin 13-01.

Sincerely,

Rep. Jay Barnes

c.c. The Honorable Jay Nixon

[1] The other states were Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, Oregon, and California. States That Had Already Been Allowing Policyholders to Renew Their Plans Before President Obama Made His Announcement, NY Times, published November 20, 2013 at  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/11/20/us/which-states-will-allow-old-health-policies-to-be-renewed.html?ref=us.

I also sent the following press release to the Associated Press and a few other outlets. 

PRESS RELEASE 

Rep. Jay Barnes Requests Dept. of Insurance Reverse Decision Prohibiting Missouri Consumers from Renewing Health Plans Early to Avoid ACA Insurance Cancellations

Jefferson City – State Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) has requested that the Missouri Department of Insurance reverse an earlier decision which made it impossible for Missourians to avoid Affordable Care Act insurance cancellations. Barnes specifically asks for the replacement of Bulletin 13-01, a directive sent by the Department in early June warning insurance companies that they could not renew policies early, even at the option of the consumer, to avoid ACA-mandated cancellations.

“We have a duty to protect Missourians the best we can from the ill effects of Obamacare,” said Barnes. “Rescinding Bulletin 13-01 quickly would give as many Missourians as possible the freedom to renew their existing insurance policies. Reversing course is the right thing – and the smart thing – for Governor Nixon and the Department of Insurance to do.” 

Important Source Documents:

http://insurance.mo.gov/laws/bulletin/documents/InsuranceBulletin13-01.pdf

http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C300-399/3760000452.HTM

http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C300-399/3790000938.HTM 

http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C300-399/3760000454.HTM

By the time I returned to my office I learned that Gov. Nixon announced, via press release, that insurance companies would be allowed to continue cancelled plans. My thoughts: as stated in my press release above, this is the right thing, and the smart thing to do for Missouri consumers suffering policy cancellations due to ACA-mandates. I’m pleased with the quick turnaround – and I still believe Bulletin 13-01 should be withdrawn in its entirety.