As Obamacare fix is debated, Aetna says it discontinued 12,500 policies

Aetna notified 12,500 individual policyholders in Connecticut that their health plans would not be renewed when they expire. But about 40 percent of them so far have chosen to buy a new policy that begins this year, allowing them to get 12 months of coverage from a plan not subject to the requirements of the federal health law.

The number of canceled policies in the state, and the reasons for cancellation, have been sources of contention this week as lawmakers skirmish over whether Connecticut should allow insurers to extend plans that don’t meet the requirements of the federal health law. President Obama gave states that option last week in response to anger at the hundreds of thousands of health plans being discontinued nationwide despite his pledge that people who like their plans could keep them when the law commonly known as Obamacare rolls out.

Representatives for other insurance companies did not respond to questions about the number of policies being discontinued.

Aetna's figures offer a glimpse at the types of policies being canceled and what options members are choosing, although it's not clear how representative it is of the rest of the market.

Only 57 of Aetna’s canceled policies had a special status known as “grandfathered,” meaning they could still be sold next year even though they don’t meet the health law's requirements.

On Monday, Insurance Commissioner Thomas B. Leonardi said that about 27,000 individual health policies were being canceled in Connecticut. Of those, he added, only about 9,000 were being canceled as a result of the health law. The others were grandfathered, meaning they could be renewed next year if the insurance companies wanted to, regardless of whether the state adopts the option Obama offered last week.

Leonardi said his figures were estimates based on numbers provided by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s largest insurer.

Republicans have taken issue with Leonardi’s figures and are seeking more information from him. They think there are more plans being canceled, and more being canceled because of Obamacare.

The matter is likely to come up Friday during a legislative forum on the status of the federal health law in Connecticut, being held by the Insurance and Real Estate Committee at 11 a.m. Deputy Insurance Commissioner Anne Melissa Dowling, who oversees the department’s health insurance initiatives, is among the scheduled speakers.

In the case of Aetna, customers with plans not slated to be renewed in 2014 were given the option of buying a new plan that takes effect Dec. 1. That means the plan is subject to current market rules and prices, rather than those that will take effect Jan. 1 as part of the health law. Aetna spokeswoman Susan Millerick said members have until Nov. 27 to decide if they want to take that option.

Other insurers have also offered customers that option, and some brokers are recommending it for people who want to maintain coverage similar to what they currently have.

Of the small number of grandfathered Aetna policies being discontinued, Millerick said the company believes the policies are no longer needed because of the federal health law, and that Aetna is looking to streamline its portfolio to reduce administrative costs to keep pricing competitive.

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