The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued guidance to the state Insurance Commissioners recommending individuals and small groups be allowed to continue existing coverage for an additional year. Thankfully, the “emergency” that “forced” the Washington Insurance Commissioner to cripple small group health plan renewals appears to be over. Here was the stated purpose of those emergency rules:
Under RCW 34.05.350 the agency for good cause finds:
That immediate adoption, amendment, or repeal of a rule is necessary for the preservation of the public health, safety, or general welfare, and that observing the time requirements of notice and opportunity to comment upon adoption of a permanent rule would be contrary to the public interest.
Reasons for this finding: The rules are required for an orderly market transition from noncompliant plans that must be discontinued, to replacement plans that must be in place by the next renewal date for each group or individual after January 1, 2014. Of particular concern is that health plan issuers will adjust renewal dates to lengthen the period of time enrollees remain on non-compliant plans after January 1, 2014. The rules also implement 45 CFR 147.140.”
As one insurance regulatory attorney has helpfully observed in a letter to the Washington Insurance Commissioner today:
“Your premise supporting the Rules is that beginning January I, 2014 the ACA is forcing, “discontinuation and replacement of non-grandfathered health plans. The requirements affect not just the commercial individual and small group market, but also coverage issued through associations or member governed groups to individual and small group purchasers.” This premise is clearly not correct, particularly in light of the President’s commitments. Additionally, there is no “emergency”. Accordingly, there is no basis for the Insurance Commissioner to impose requirements that go beyond the ACA and these Rules must be withdrawn immediately.
Failure to withdraw these rules will cause unnecessary and completely avoidable market chaos in Washington and force many thousands of Washington residents off coverage they like, want to keep, and can afford.”