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Dina Titus calls on governor to decide on extension of insurance plans

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 | 4:17 p.m.

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Congresswoman Dina Titus

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., says a fix to national health care woes could be coming to Nevada.

She’s calling on Gov. Brian Sandoval to make a decision on whether to adopt President Barack Obama’s one-year extension of health insurance policies that don’t meet the minimum requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the President’s health care law.

The law immediately affects more than 92,000 Nevadans who purchase insurance on the individual market. About 25,000 of them have already received cancellation notices from their insurance companies because their plans do not meet minimum requirements of the federal law.

Obama proposed the one-year delay to state insurance regulators last week as a way to keep his promise that people who like their health insurance plans can stay on them under the health care law he championed.

Nevadans who have had their insurance policies cancelled have been directed to the Silver State Exchange, the state’s insurance marketplace where Nevadans can buy plans that are compliant with the law.

“While many will be able to find more affordable, comprehensive insurance coverage on the Silver State Exchange, it is important for these families to know as soon as possible what their options will be for the coming year,” Titus said in a letter to Sandoval that was also sent to the press.

Sandoval and Nevada Insurance Commissioner Scott Kipper haven’t yet said whether they will adopt Obama’s plan.

They are not sure it’s even legal to adopt Obama’s administrative fix while the law’s requirements for minimum insurance benefits are still on the books.

“The (Nevada) Division of Insurance continues to evaluate the President's proposal to ensure any decision complies with state and federal law,” said Mary-Sarah Kinner, communications director for Sandoval.

The decision ultimately lies with Sandoval and Kipper. Although Congress can change laws, individual state insurance divisions generally regulate specific health insurance products in their respective states.

“On November 14, 2013, President Obama announced that insurance companies will be able to offer renewals of their current policies to existing customers without adopting the 2014 market rule changes,” Titus wrote in an email. “State governments, however, have been given the power to decide whether or not to implement this order in their states."

The market changes she references are part of Obama’s health care law.

Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and New York are not accepting Obama’s plan and will let policy cancellations stand.

Hawaii, Kentucky, Florida, Texas, and Ohio have said they will allow insurance companies to continue offering cancelled plans for a year.

For the past few years, Democrats have lauded a mandate requiring insurers to include a battery of “essential health benefits” for all insurance products that offer coverage in 2014.

Those expanded benefits, they said, would help consumers receive more comprehensive health coverage starting in 2014.

Many of those plans are for sale now on the state insurance exchange.

But that part of the law is also responsible for people receiving cancellation notices. Insurers who offered plans to individuals that did not include the essential health benefits recently sent cancellation notices to customers nationwide. This angered people who recalled that Obama had said people can keep their health insurance if they like it.

As a way to address the cancellations, Obama’s plan would allow people to keep their plans for another year, even if those plans don’t include the essential health benefits mandated under the law.

Titus has touted these benefits at town hall meetings in Las Vegas and continues to “strongly support” them, said Caitlin Teare, communications director for Titus.

“The administrative fix does not prevent any person from accessing affordable, quality policies,” Teare said. “Instead, it provides a smoother transition for some by giving consumers more information and choices.”

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