FRANKFORT — Anyone listening to the political debate about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare to the law’s critics – in Kentucky has heard claims that large numbers of people saw their insurance plans cancelled.
Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell says the number is 280,000. State Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said last week the number is 165,000.
Kentucky’s Department of Insurance says virtually no one forcibly lost insurance coverage, although some may have had to change plans and may have had to pay more for better coverage.
In fact, said Ronda Sloan, Public Information Officer for DOI, the 280,000 figure represents the entire number of Kentuckians who were covered by private individual or small group plans before the ACA implementation. For that number to be correct, all of them would have had to lose coverage.
Sloan said 48,302 of the 280,000 Kentuckians’ existing health plans were “grandfathered in” under the new law because those policies met the law’s requirements for minimum coverage when the measure was signed into law.
The law sets minimum standards of coverage, sometimes called essential benefits, which all policies henceforth must offer – no more limits on life-time coverage; no refusal for pre-existing conditions; coverage of preventive measures.
Some people received “discontinuation” letters because their old plans failed to meet those standards, Sloan said, but that’s different from a cancellation. Sloan said those whose policies were discontinued were at the same time offered a new plan that meets the standards.
“This was not ‘losing coverage.’ It actually presented consumers with a wonderful opportunity to examine plans and shop around, knowing they couldn’t be denied coverage,” Sloan said.
Famously or infamously, President Barack Obama promised: “If you like your plan, you can keep it.” But that turned out not to be true and there was enormous criticism which was widely covered by the media. Obama subsequently said individuals would be given a year-long extension period during which they could keep their plans so long as the insurance company continued to offer it.