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Will Mo. insurance providers extend canceled health plans?

Republicans in the Missouri Senate want to make sure the governor doesn't create a health care exchange without their consent.
KBIA/file photo
Republicans in the Missouri Senate want to make sure the governor doesn't create a health care exchange without their consent.

Health insurers serving the individual and small group markets in Missouri can continue selling plans that would have been canceled by Dec. 31 for not meeting the requirements outlined in the Affordable Care Act, according to the state's Department of Insurance. 

Starting in 2014, all health insurance plans must include some services from all of the law's "10 essential health benefit" categories. The broadly defined categories include, among others: maternity care, behavioral health treatments, prescription drugs, laboratory services and preventive services.

Insurance companies have now sent cancelation notices to millions of Americans who hold health plans that did not meet those requirements.  Following nationwide criticism, President Barack Obama proposed on Nov. 15 that the administration would allow the canceled plans to remain effective until the end of 2014.

Ultimately, states have the regulatory authority over the details of insurance plans allowed for sale within their borders. Some states have written the Affordable Care Act's requirements into their laws, and thus can't extend the canceled plans. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Director of Insurance John Huff announced today that Missouri laws can allow the canceled plans to continue.

The ball is now in the insurance companies' court, according to Ryan Barker, vice president of health policy at the Missouri Foundation for Health, and time is running out. 

“Usually before this time of the year, [companies] will have been setting the insurance plans they're going to offer in the next year,” Barker said. “What do those plans look like in terms of benefit structure, in terms of provider networks, in terms of deductibles and co-pays, and they price them out. That's usually all done by this point.”

Now, the insurance companies would have to go back to the canceled plans and reconsider their benefit structures and prices for 2014, before they can inform the thousands of consumers whose plans had been canceled.

“There's a very short time-frame for a lot of decisions to be made,” Barker said. Companies have to finalize their plans before the end of the year.

Barker expects to hear more in the coming weeks from the insurance companies on whether they’d extend the canceled plans. It’s a little too early speculate, Barker said, but he thinks companies might announce it’s too late to bring canceled plans back. 

In a statement, the Department of Insurance Director John Huff said his department would expedite the process to get insurance plans re-approved for next year. 

Harum Helmy started as KBIA's Health and Wealth reporter in January 2013. She has previously worked at the station as a news assistant, helping assign and edit stories by student reporters. Harum grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia and graduated from MU with degrees in journalism and anthropology in 2011. She's trying to finish up an MA in journalism.