Anthem Blue Cross will delay cancelling 104,000 health insurance policies

by Tracy Seipel, San Jose Mercury News

For the second time in a week, one of the largest insurance companies in California said Tuesday that it will delay canceling tens of thousands of individual health insurance policies until early next year.

Anthem Blue Cross of California will allow 104,000 of its individual policyholders to stay on their current plans through Feb. 28 after the company confirmed it did not give a 90-day notice, required by the state to alert customers that their plans would be canceled, by Dec. 31.

The news comes amid the recent furor over cancellations of millions of such individual policies across the country, many of which don’t comply with the new federal health care law.

But Americans with individual plans were promised by President Barack Obama that if they liked their policy, they could “keep it.”

The president last week publicly apologized during a television interview to people “finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.”

And in an interview published Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton said that Obama should allow Americans to keep their existing health plans, even if that means tweaking the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who announced the news about Anthem Blue Cross Tuesday morning, last week forced Blue Shield of California to give its 80,000 individual policy holders a three-month reprieve before canceling their policies. In that case, the company failed to give those customers 180 days notice that it was choosing to be regulated by the state’s Department of Managed Health Care rather than Jones’ Department of Insurance.

Jones reiterated that neither federal or state law requires insurance companies to cancel these policies by Dec. 31, something he said he’s consistently opposed. Jones urged other insurance companies in the state to extend their individual policy holders’ plans until at least March 31, and preferably until the end of 2014, as small businesses have been allowed to do.