When millions of health-insurance plans were canceled last fall, the Obama administration tried to be reassuring, saying the terminations affected only the small minority of Americans who bought individual policies.
But according to industry analysts, insurers and state regulators, the disruption will be far greater, potentially affecting millions of people who receive insurance through small employers by the end of 2014.
While some cancellation notices already have gone out, insurers say the bulk of the letters will be sent in October, shortly before the next open-enrollment period begins. The timing — right before the midterm elections — could be difficult for Democrats who are already fending off Republican attacks about the Affordable Care Act and its troubled rollout.
Some of the small-business cancellations are occurring because the policies don’t meet the law’s basic coverage requirements. But many are related only indirectly to the law; insurers are trying to move customers to new plans designed to offset the financial and administrative risks associated with the health-care overhaul. As part of that, they are consolidating their plan offerings to maximize profits and streamline how they manage them.
Meanwhile, other problems are cropping up. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Obamacare's biggest problem isn't the troubled HealthCare.gov website anymore.
Consumers are easing up on criticism of government exchanges and turning their frustration and fury toward some of the nation's biggest health insurers. All too often, new policyholders say, the companies can't confirm coverage, won't answer basic questions, and haven't issued identification numbers needed to fill prescriptions or get medical care.
Day after day, people say, they contact insurance company call centers waiting hours at a time with no response. Meantime, insurers have already taken many customers' payments for coverage intended to take effect Jan. 1.
But without proof of insurance, patients are having to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket for medications and doctor visits, if they can afford it. Insurance agents say dismal service has become commonplace across many companies.
These industry problems pose the next major hurdle for what's already been a flawed rollout for President Obama's signature law. It could further sour public opinion on the overhaul and hamper enrollment efforts through March 31, when the first sign-up period ends.