Jacksonville reacts to Affordable Care Act announcement

Businesses relieved by extended health care deadline

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter, Elizabeth Berry

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - While the change allows insurance companies to renew plans that would be canceled by the Affordable Care Act – it also puts more pressure on insurers.

Insurance companies have to notify customers of the protections not included in their plan. They also have to promote other options on the health care exchange and they have to explain tax credits available for many people.

The early reviews range from "He did the right thing" to accusing President Obama of "destabilizing the health insurance market."

Channel 4 found people on opposite ends of the spectrum Thursday night.

"I think the president did the right thing," said Senator Bill Nelson (FL-D).

Lawmakers like U.S. Senator Bill Nelson began discussing and debating the President's apology and announcement on Thursday. Nelson said allowing companies to renew existing plans fixes the problem.

"The idea certainly wasn't if they had insurance they were satisfied with, that they wouldn't be able to keep that. That's what the President said, and re-affirmed today," said Nelson.

RELATED: Businesses relieved by later deadline | 3,471 Floridians sign up for health care

Bob Horne is a financial planner in Jacksonville and is also trained and certified as a health care exchange navigator. Horne told Channel 4 that he's navigating his own tough path, because he has individual insurance plan. His will be cancelled, whether it happens this year or next.

The comparison between Horne's current policy at about $600 a month, and a similar policy on the exchange, nearly doubles his premium.

"Comparable plan next year is going to cost me a little over $1,100. I don't qualify for a subsidy, so I'm literally going from a car payment to a mortgage payment," said Horne.

Horne advises clients on the nuances of health care reform and he told Channel 4 that most companies he deals with are continuing their policies through next year.

"Majority of plans I'm seeing right now, you're able to keep plans through end of 2014," said Horne. "Majority I'm seeing now won't qualify under the ACA guidelines and they'll be cancelled! You won't be able to keep those plans. Period."

Companies selling policies could be in a bind

President Obama announces a change in policy and the companies selling the policies could be in a bind because of it.

Aetna is one of the major insurance companies in the Jacksonville area and throughout the entire nation, companies like Aetna will have to choose quickly to reinstate plans that the new health care law deem unsuitable.

"As you probably know, insurance costs, it's difficult for them to do those kinds of things in a fast turnaround," said attorney Laura Andrew.

Andrew told Channel 4 that her expertise working with health care law, leads her to believe that the President's announcement about extending canceled plans one more year, merely shifts the blame to insurance companies and insurance commissioners.

On Capitol Hill, the companies are already getting defended and getting blasted for canceling policies.

"They have been sent by fat cat insurance companies who are sending cancellation letters. Here we go again the scale of justice imbalanced," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

"Somehow the promise that was made over and over and over again that, 'If you like the health insurance that you have you can keep it,' was not the fault of the legislation itself and the people making that promise, but was rather the fault of the insurance companies who have to deal with this more than 2,000 page monstrosity," said Rep Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

"We are going to be working across the aisle, not to repeal the Affordable Care Act, not to defund the Affordable Care Act, not to undermine the Affordable Care Act, not to gut the Affordable Care Act, but to fix it," said Sen Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

Andrew points out the President made a recommendation and now, commissioners and companies have to figure out if they can accommodate the request. In the meantime Andrew said the exchange will lose the young healthy people needed to make the new insurance viable financially.

"So the model they've created for how you're going to pay for the coverage – has been inverted. You'll have the sickest people, most need, in exchange," said Andrew. "So the premiums they've been told are not going to be sufficient to pay for their coverage."

Channel 4 reached out to Aetna on Thursday and received this statement from spokesman, Walt Cherniak:

"We support efforts to allow people to keep what they have. We will need cooperation and expedited approval from state regulators to remove barriers that would make it difficult to make this change in such a short period of time. Action will need to be taken to address the destabilizing impact this change will have on the exchange marketplace. We will continue to communicate with our customers as we develop a solution to reinstate these policies."

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