Obama May Allow Renewal of Extended Health Plans, Aetna CEO Says

Health plans allowed to continue in 2014 though they don’t comply with new Obamacare rules may be extended for as long as three years, Aetna Inc. (AET) Chief Executive Officer Mark Bertolini told investors.

The Obama administration hasn’t yet decided whether Americans should be able to keep their insurance plans that don’t meet certain coverage requirements in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in an e-mail.

Health insurers told millions of Americans last fall that their existing policies would be canceled because the coverage didn’t include such benefits as maternity care and prescription drugs. The cancellations generated consumer anger and political criticism. President Barack Obama in November announced that states could reinstate the plans for at least a year.

“We don’t know what will happen with keep-what-you-have,” Bertolini said yesterday on a conference call with investors and analysts, referring to Obama’s oft-repeated promise that people with health plans they like could keep them. “There’s some talk out there to have keep-what-you-have continue for three more years.”

The policy affects only Americans who buy insurance coverage for themselves, a market of about 19 million people in 2012, according to U.S. Census data, not those who have coverage through employer-sponsored plans.

“While we are continuing to examine all sorts of ways to provide consumers with more choices and to smooth the transition as we implement the law, no decisions have been made,” Peters said.

Divided Decisions

At least 22 states, including New York and California, declined to allow the health plans to be extended.

Bertolini said insurers need to know whether older plans will be extended past this year before they set rates for 2015 coverage on the Obamacare exchanges. The rates are due May 31. If older plans are canceled, more healthy people may enter exchanges next year.

“All of this has to come into play and get settled down before May 15,” Bertolini said. “It’s part of the data and the answers we need to have in order to feel confident in participating in public exchanges in 2015.”

Aetna, based in Hartford, Connecticut, is the third-biggest U.S. health insurer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Wayne in Washington at awayne3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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