Nevada Insurance Commissioner Scott Kipper said Thursday he has asked the attorney general’s office for guidance on whether the state can allow people to keep their canceled insurance policies for another year.
Kipper spoke with reporters in Carson City after briefing a legislative panel on implementation of the federal health reform law.
Nearly 25,000 Nevadans received cancellation or non-renewable notices last month because their existing policies don’t meet new requirements under the 2010 law. President Barack Obama, who had said numerous times that people who liked their plans could keep them, came under intense political pressure after millions of people around the country began receiving cancellation notices from their carriers.
Last week the president did an about face, saying those people could keep their plans for another year.
But Obama kicked the final decision back to states, where regulators say extending policies that no longer comply is easier said than done.
Kipper said his office is being deliberate before making a decision.
“What we’ve asked the attorney general is, what is our authority over these products?” Kipper said.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has said only the president and Congress can fix the law.
“The very real and harmful consequences of this ill-conceived law are now being experienced by not just Nevadans but people throughout the country,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
The federal law addressed two types of insurance products — new ones that must meet certain standards and some policies that were grandfathered in. But the last minute extension from the president is another matter altogether and “created a regulator problem for us,” Kipper said.
But time is short. Policies must be purchased by Dec. 15 to take effect Jan. 1.
Kipper also confirmed his office is investigating letters sent from insurance companies to consumers notifying them of the cancellations. The issue was raised by U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., who complained a letter sent by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nevada to policyholders didn’t advise them they could shop for alternative coverage on Nevada Health Link, the state’s online insurance exchange set up as part of federal reforms.
People who meet income eligibility can qualify for federal subsidies to purchase insurance, but only if they purchase coverage through the exchange.