State

Illinois with Obama on insurance cancellation fix

CHICAGO – After a week of consideration, Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration announced Friday that Illinois will allow the one-year extension of existing health insurance plans proposed by President Barack Obama.

The announcement sets the president’s home state apart from some other states led by Democrats, which rejected the president’s proposal, saying it could leave many consumers with substandard coverage. Meanwhile, leaders in some Republican-led states that have rejected the health law are lining up with the president on the extension.

Obama announced last week he wants insurers to have the option to renew plans that would otherwise be canceled because they fall short of coverage requirements in the nation’s health care law.

At least 4 million Americans received cancellation notices, including about 185,000 of the 476,000 Illinois residents who have private individual policies.

It’s unclear how Illinois insurers will react. They aren’t required to renew the policies.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois officials said the company, which has the most customers in the state’s individual market, is reviewing the announcement and would contact any consumers who might have new options.

Illinois Department of Insurance Director Andrew Boron said in a statement that the decision was based on “concerns raised by Illinois consumers and the guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”

“Allowing companies to renew current plans gives consumers more time to evaluate their options and will provide a smoother transition into the health care coverage system envisioned” by the health law, Boron said.

Also Friday, the Obama administration moved the deadline for signing up for coverage that will start with the new year. People now will have until Dec. 23 to enroll if they want their coverage to start Jan. 1 – an eight extra days for consumers to make a decision.

The pushed-back deadline is aimed at making up for the numerous technical difficulties on the federal insurance shopping website. It will also give more time to people whose insurance plans are being canceled.

“Making certain that Illinois residents have access to quality affordable health care remains one of our top priorities,” Boron said. “Today’s actions reinforce our commitment to a culture of coverage.”

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Associated Press Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/CarlaKJohnson

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