Report: Health insurance cancelled for thousands with prior conditions

If you buy your own health insurance, and particularly if you have a pre-existing condition and an older “guaranteed issue” policy, there’s a fair chance you’re getting canceled, Kaiser Health News is reporting.

Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people – about half of its individual business in the state. Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.

Both Independence and Highmark are cancelling so-called “guaranteed issue” policies, which had been sold to customers who had pre-existing medical conditions when they signed up. Policyholders with regular policies because they did not have health problems will be given an option to extend their coverage through next year.

Consumer advocates say such cancellations raise concerns that companies may be targeting their most costly enrollees.

They may be “doing this as an opportunity to push their populations into the exchange and purge their systems” of policyholders they no longer want, said Jerry Flanagan, an attorney with the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog in California.

But a spokesperson for one insurance company says they’re encouraging the policyholders to enroll, instead, in new coverage that complies with the new health care law.

Kaiser says in some cases the new policies appear to be at a higher cost.

Meanwhile, it’s the website that’s getting the attention now as a hearing began at the Capitol today into the technical problems that are preventing people from signing up for insurance plans.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein suspects it won’t lead to much help for the people who just want the thing to work.

The problem with this hearing is that the parties have the wrong incentives for it. Democrats have a policy interest in fixing’s problems but a political interest in downplaying their severity.

Republicans have a policy interest in seeing the problems fester — and in creating new ones — but a political interest in hyping them. The result is that the party that wants to talk about what’s wrong with doesn’t want to actually figure out how to fix it while the party that wants to fix it doesn’t want to talk about it.