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Maine Anthem health coverage plans to be extended

Alanna Durkin, Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- Thousands of Mainers who thought their health coverage was being canceled under the federal health care overhaul will have the chance to stay on those plans another year, state insurance regulators said Tuesday.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield will give one-year renewals for health insurance plans that don't meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act — a move President Barack Obama's administration recently said it would allow after millions of Americans received notices that their plans were being cancelled.

The decision will allow thousands of Mainers to have another option for coverage next year, Maine's Superintendent of Insurance Eric Cioppa said Tuesday.

"It will also result in a smaller premium increase for those choosing to continue their current plan, and provide more time for those individuals to evaluate plans for future years," he said in a statement.

About 8,500 Anthem policyholders have been told that their current plans are being cancelled and replaced with a different plan that meets the more extensive requirements for essential benefits under the health care law. Those policyholders wouldn't experience a gap in coverage and have the option of switching to another plan under Anthem or another insurer, the bureau has said.

The company was pleased with the state's decision to allow plans to be renewed, said Rory Sheehan, an Anthem spokesman.

He said Anthem officials will be reaching out to consumers in the coming days about the changes and the various coverage options available to them under the new law.

Joe Ditre, executive director of Augusta-based Consumers for Affordable Health Care, said that it's important for Anthem to notify policyholders that they may be eligible for subsides and more comprehensive coverage on the exchange, or marketplace, a key component of the health care law.

Obama's decision to allow for the extension came after the administration was harshly criticized as millions of policyholders across the country received notices of cancellation, even though the president had said those who liked their plans would be able to keep them under his health law.

Maine joins several other states, like Illinois and Michigan, which have agreed to allow the one-year extension. Officials in other states, like California, say allowing the older policies to continue will undermine the health care law and only prolong the problem.


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