Affordable Care Act forces some to change insurance plans

Affordable Care Act forces some to change insurance plans
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The Affordable Care Act is supposed to mean health insurance for more Americans, but there are concerns some people might lose their current coverage. Turns out, people whose insurance doesn't meet the new law's requirements will be forced to get different plans.

"There are policies, because of the lack of coverage, that all of these policies don't meet the minimum standards," Clinica Sierra Vista CEO Steve Schilling explained. "I think what we're basically saying in this law, is that we're going to expect people to have really solid coverage."

CBS News reports they've confirmed with insurance companies that more than two million people across the country will get word they can't keep their existing insurance plans. Under the ACA, those people will have to get new coverage that meets the new requirements.

The law has ten minimum standards, according to CBS, and those include things like maternity care, emergency visits, mental health and pediatric dental care. Schilling says while some people may have had insurance without those benefits, there's a reason to require these sorts of things.

"What you're talking about here is spreading that risk to the maximum number of the people in the country," Schilling says. "The prices come down as you expand the number of folks who are covered by the various insurance policies as the coverages are more global."

Eyewitness News checked with local Kaiser Permanente spokesmen for their response. They refer to health insurance policies that don't meet the new minimum standards as "not compliant."

"What is important to understand is that individuals, including Kaiser Permanente members, with discontinued non-compliant products are being provided modified plans that are ACA-complaint and include comparable health care services," their statement reads. It says that allows uninterrupted coverage.

Kaiser says they'll also give members information on alternate choices and how to get federal financial assistance, if they're eligible, through the new state insurance exchange.

The large health plan also says members who bought their individual coverage before March 23, 2010 are "grandfathered" in, and can keep their existing plan as long as they don't make significant changes. Kaiser says about 2.5% of their members are in "non grandfathered individual plans."

The new health insurance exchanges started up October 1, and in our state that's under "Covered California." Clinica's Steve Schilling says his organization is still struggling to get their counselors through all the hoops to help people enroll for coverage.

"We've made a little progress," Schilling said. "But, I'm pretty frustrated actually, still." He's still trying to get Clinica through the entire certification process as an organization. However, of their 46 counselors who've gone through the process, 29 just got some good news. "They, all of a sudden got numbers, and they are -- in fact -- assisting patients today in moving them in," he said.

Eyewitness News asked viewers for their opinion about Covered California this weekend. Some say they had no problems, others say they don't like the new system.

"My daughter had no problem whatsoever," one woman posted on our Facebook page, "She signed on the second day. She will now have coverage for the first time since she was 19. She is now 32."

Another said they've tried to enroll since the program opened and still no luck, "I've called and talked to a representative, and she told me to keep trying," that viewer reported.

Schilling is also frustrated with the technical snags, and figures that's widespread. "I'm not very happy with this, I don't think we're happy as a nation," he said. "I just wish -- both at the national and state level -- that we had spent a little more time and maybe a little more brain power and resources developing the technology to make this happen."

But, he supports the new law's minimum requirements for health coverage, and thinks people who must get new plans will find what they need from the "covered California" exchange.

"I'm sure there are policies at the various four levels, from the bronze all the way to the platinum, that they would find affordable and would cover the needs that they're needing," Schilling said. He had no information on cost comparisons, he said.

But, CBS reports experts tell them of the people who will be forced to get different and more expanded coverage, half will pay more and half will pay less. Those paying less will benefit from the federal assistance and subsidies.