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Policy Matters: Florida Blue Public Policy Executive Jason Altmire


The rollout of the national online Health Insurance Exchange under the Affordable Care Act in October has caused political strife for President Obama and increased uncertainly for those seeking insurance.As a Congressman in Pennsylvania, Jason Altmire voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

Today, as Senior Vice President of Public Policy for Jacksonville-based Florida Blue, Altmire has been explaining how the law works to people across Florida and has said he wants the law to succeed.

He spoke with Policy Matters host Rick Mullaney about how the Affordable Care Act is affecting Florida now, and how it could affect residents and businesses in the state in the coming months and years.

"I think the president of course regrets making those remarks after the law had been passed and was enacted," Altmire said, when asked about statements that had been repeated by Obama up until last month that people who liked their current insurance plans could keep them under the Affordable Care Act.

"Those who had health plans in effect before the bill was enacted on March 21, 2010, all of those plans were grandfathered." Altmire said.

Plans that came into effect after that date, he said, were required to meet 10 minimum benefits under Obamacare.

Despite the knowledge that plans would likely be canceled if they did not have all 10 benefits, Obama and other leaders continued to use that rhetoric.

Florida Blue sent letters to 300,000 individual policy holders in October notifying them that their current plans would be canceled and switched to those that would comply with the law.

Credit The White House / YouTube
President Obama announces a fix to the Affordable Care Act addressing cancellation notices received by some people in the individual health insurance market, November 14, 2013.

Last Thursday, Obama announced a proposal for those who had lost their policies because of the new requirements would be allowed to keep them for another year.

The same day, Florida Blue announced they would begin to reissue their canceled policies in accordance with approval of the fix.

"In Florida, there are hundreds of thousands of plans that needed to be upgraded," Altmire said, agreeing in part with Obama calling the grandfather clause "narrow."

"How many people still have exactly the same health plan they had four years ago? Many, but there are hundreds of thousands who don't," he said.

The issue will likely come up again after the year-long grace period based on the mechanics of the law.

"The way the bill is structured, you have to get everybody in the risk pool," Altmire said, citing statistics that officials expect 40 to 50 million uninsured Americans to get insurance through the online health exchanges.

"When you have people that can exclude themselves and buy plans that are not compliant with what the chronic health condition health insured have, then that throws off the actuarial calculation and people end up paying more."

Next year could also mark a new bump for the law as requirements for employers to begin meeting insurance plan minimums under the law go into effect.

Altmire said the decisions by companies whether to keep insuring their employees or let them purchase plans through the marketplace will be unique to each business.

"If your costs for family coverage are between $10,000 and $15,000 per employee, and you have the option to drop their coverage and pay a 2,000 per employee penalty, and you know that those employees can then go into the exchange, qualify for a subsidy, and have dozens of choices in the exchange."

"They're going to pay less out of pocket and have more choices that you're able to give them, and you're going to save $10,000 per employee, why would you not drop them?" he said.

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