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Politics & Government

PA Insurance Commissioner Tries to Ease Consumer Confusion Surrounding ACA

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been marked with website difficulties and confusion for some consumers. Some of that confusion surrounds whether some people can keep their current health insurance plans.

Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine’s office is working with insurance companies asking them to either delay cancelations or help policyholders enroll in ACA compliant plans.

“It really is not a long-term fix, but certainly is geared to provide short term assistance to individuals who otherwise would have been left without coverage,” Consedine said.

This is geared specifically toward the individual market.

“The crisis that we were seeing coming mostly in the individual market were we has 250,000 Pennsylvanians who were going to be without coverage at the end of the year,” Consedine said. “That really was not an issue in the small group market.”

Pennsylvania's four Blues insurers will extend the life of their insurance policies for the working poor after planning to end them Dec. 31 because they do not meet the requirements of the federal health care law.

Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross, Pittsburgh-based Highmark and Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania will extend coverage through June 30. Capital Blue Cross said it will extend coverage through March 31. Independence Blue Cross and Highmark said they will seek approval from the state for rate increases.

Consedine said his office will continue to work with consumers to clear up confusion and make sure they have the appropriate health care coverage.

“People, obviously, have very strong feelings about maintaining coverage and maintaining relationships with their existing doctors and all of that’s being impacted by the affordable care act in different ways,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration said the federal health insurance website should be able to weather an expected year-end crush of customers thanks to a combination of software fixes and design changes. The added leeway comes in the form of an extra eight days this year for consumers nationwide to sign up and still get insurance by Jan. 1. A previous Dec. 15 deadline was stretched to Dec. 23. Policyholders must pay their premiums by Dec. 31.

Consedine advises anyone with questions about their specific insurance policy should contact their insurance company directly. Other resources can be found online.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.