The Corner

Obamacare Cancellation Notices Hit Arkansas, but Obamacare Rates Unknown

Arkansas citizens are getting the first of as many as 120,000 insurance policy cancellation notices related to Obamacare, as one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators in the country enters the homestretch of the campaign.

The notices are arriving, according to Arkansas Republicans, but the people receiving them still don’t know what their new health insurance plans will cost.

“We write to request details on the rates Arkansans can expect to pay for health insurance purchased on Healthcare.gov when the exchange opens for plan enrollment on November 15, 2014,” Representatives Tom Cotton, Steve Womack, Tim Griffin, and Rick Crawford wrote Tuesday to Arkansas insurance commissioner Jay Bradford.

The letter was prompted by an Arkansan who called Bradford’s office and was told that the rates would be announced on November 3, according to Cotton’s chief of staff; last year, they came out on September 23. Bradford’s office told NRO that he was still reviewing and preparing a response to the letter, which was sent today.

“Thanks to your actions last year regarding private market plan renewals, a large number of Arkansans are only now receiving cancellation notices for their plans and will thus be navigating Healthcare.gov for the first time this November,” the four Republicans wrote to Bradford. 

The exact number of cancellation notices that will be sent remains unknown, but a Cotton aide estimated that about 120,000 people would be receiving the letters. The notices are coming this year because Bradford allowed insurance companies in the state to “offer a one-year extension of a plan to consumers on Dec. 31, 2013, so that consumers can keep the plan through the end of calendar-year 2014, even if the plan is not compliant with Obamacare,” according to the Arkansas Times.

“Therefore, it is vital they have the information necessary to evaluate which exchange plan best meets their needs and complete their purchase in time to receive health care coverage on January 1, 2015,” the delegation wrote.

Bradford told the lawmakers that mass cancellations would not take place.

“I don’t anticipate that will be the case,” he wrote. “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in March 2014 allowed states to extend the deadline for non-grandfathered plans to comply with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act from December 30, 2014, to October 1, 2016. In Arkansas Insurance Department Bulletin No. 6-2014, I adopted that extension.”

The Arkansas Times’ David Ramsey writes that, rather than cancellation notices, Arkansans will be “getting letters with the option to re-up for another year. And they’ll get the same letter, offering to re-up, in the fall of 2015 and again in the fall of 2016.”

A Cotton aide said that the commissioner is wrong. “[T]he new extension only applies to plans that were re-upped for a coverage year starting between January 1, 2014 and October 1, 2014,” chief of staff Doug Coutts wrote to NRO.  “But due to his previous actions, all Arkansas individual market plans started on December 31, 2013.”

Cotton is challenging Senator Mark Pryor (D., Ark.), one of the most vulnerable senators in the country. 

“PPP’s newest Arkansas poll finds Republicans leading across the board in the state’s key races for this year, led by Tom Cotton with a 43/38 advantage over Mark Pryor and Asa Hutchinson with a 44/38 lead over Mike Ross at the top of the ticket,” Public Policy Polling reported Tuesday.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect the state insurance commissioner’s response.

 

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