U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said thousands of Pennsylvanians are contacting his office with complaints about losing their health insurance because of the federal overhaul, while state insurance regulators put the number of people in that situation at more than 200,000.
Toomey brought the stories of complaints he had received to a Senate committee hearing Wednesday where U.S. Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius answered questions about the much-criticized rollout of the law’s online marketplace and what can be done about people who are losing their insurance plan.
Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, said the cost of insurance will triple for one Bucks County man and his two young sons. A Lancaster County woman told Toomey’s office she is a two-time breast cancer survivor and is facing the loss of insurance March 1, Toomey told Sebelius.
Toomey also said a Westmoreland County woman who is on medication for multiple sclerosis is losing her insurance.
“We called this woman, and we discussed this,” Toomey said. “It turned out there were two options available to her through the exchange. One option would allow her to continue to see the doctors that have been treating her. The other option would cover the medication she needed. Neither option could cover both.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Insurance estimated that 215,000 to 250,000 Pennsylvanians, including people in individual, small-group and large-group products, are seeing their coverage discontinued for reasons connected to the federal law.
In some cases, the insurance plans do not include the benefits that are required by the law as of Jan. 1. In other cases, the companies don’t want to write that particular line of business any longer.
“We are telling consumers to carefully read their current insurance company’s cancellation letter,” department spokeswoman Rosanne Placey said. “It will have important information about their specific situation and possible next steps.”
Highmark spokeswoman Kristin Ash said the Pittsburgh-based insurer is discontinuing 40,000 individual health plans in Pennsylvania that are for individuals who are generally sicker and otherwise could not receive health insurance.
Now that the law bans insurance companies from discriminating against people who have a health condition, it is in the policyholder’s interest in getting a plan that is compliant with the new health care law because it will have additional benefits and, in almost all cases, will be lower-priced, Ash said.
People whose income is low enough to qualify for a tax credit can buy the coverage on the exchange, or purchase it directly from Highmark if they do not qualify for a subsidy, Ash said.