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Insurance Agency Offers Guidance On Dropped Plans

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(Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolinians who lost their health policies under the federal health care law will soon learn whether they can keep their plan for another year after all.

The state Insurance Department issued guidelines Tuesday for insurers that want to extend coverage to clients who previously received termination notices.

Millions of policyholders nationwide have received such letters, despite President Barack Obama’s repeated promise that those who like their health plans would be able to keep it under the 2010 overhaul. People learned that, to keep coverage, they needed to switch to a more comprehensive, and often more expensive, policy that complies with the federal law.

The backlash over canceled plans, including from his own party, caused Obama to reverse himself last Thursday on part of the law, as he took administrative action to let insurers continue current plans for a year.

“It added a whole lot of confusion to an already confusing issue,” said state Insurance Director Ray Farmer. “We’re trying to make the most sense of it so we can explain it to our carriers and they can provide information to our citizens.”

Farmer estimates the notices affected more than 150,000 people in South Carolina.

State law did not require insurers to provide the data, and the state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina, has refused to publicly say how many notices it sent.

But the Insurance Department will collect detailed numbers as insurers submit their intentions. Carriers must respond by Dec. 2. The agency will then announce which carriers are allowing customers to renew their policies, and which are continuing with termination plans.

Insurers will likely need to update their filings.

“Our department will be on standby,” Farmer said. “We will process those as thoroughly and quickly as possible.”

Farmer said he has yet to receive any guidelines from the federal government. However, given the short window between Obama’s announcement and when policies begin to terminate, “we think we need to go ahead and give direction,” Farmer said.

“South Carolina declines to enforce the 2014 market reforms that the federal government will not enforce for these specific policies,” the bulletin reads. “South Carolina will instead enforce its own laws during this transitional period.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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