State mulling health-reform options |

State mulling health-reform options

Sandra Chereb
Associated Press

Nevada’s insurance commissioner Thursday was trying to weigh the ramifications of President Obama’s announcement that people who had their health insurance policies canceled will be allowed to continue them for one more year.

Commissioner Scott Kipper said rescinding cancellation notices that have already gone out to about 24,600 Nevadans might be easier said than done.

Kipper, speaking with The Associated Press after a meeting of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange board of directors, said his office has been conferring with commissioners around the nation as well as with major carriers to try to determine what steps would need to be taken.

He said his counterparts around the country have the same questions.

“What happens? What are the rules?” Kipper said.

“We’re evaluating what our options are, being guided by what’s best for Nevada consumers,” Kipper told the AP.

Obama announced changes to his health reform law earlier in the day, giving carriers and states the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled.

The move came after intense pressure from critics and fellow Democrats that Obama had promised people that if they liked their health insurance they could keep it under his signature reform law passed in 2010. Instead, millions of people around the nation received cancellation or non-renewal notices in October because their policies didn’t comply with minimum requirements mandated under the new law.

But the task now falls to state officials, who would have to implement the last-minute changes. It also depends on the willingness of insurance carriers to go along.

While White House officials said insurance companies will now be able to offer those people the option to renew their old plans, companies are not required to take that step.

One big question is whether policies that were priced under a different set of rules can be re-rated for the upcoming year, Kipper said. “There are a lot of operational issues on the insurance company side,” he said. “Whether we will be able to re-rate these products.”

Insurance carriers routinely submit new policy rates and coverage options to the insurance commissioner’s office for approval well in advance of when new premiums will take effect. But some factors once used in determining premiums, such as gender or occupation, are no longer allowed.

“We have a lot of policy issues we’re meshing through,” Kipper said.

Jon Hager, executive director of Nevada’s state-run health exchange, said the president’s announcement shouldn’t have a big effect on enrollment targets in the short term. He said the exchange, which operates as Nevada Health Link, is geared toward people who lack health insurance.

While some people who received notice that their old policies were being canceled may have used the exchange to find new health coverage, he said those numbers were unlikely to cause a big change in projected enrollment.