WASHINGTON - Responding to more than 250,000 Coloradans who face health insurance cancellations because of the Affordable Care Act and industry changes, U.S. Senator Mark Udall introduced legislation Wednesday to allow Americans in the individual insurance market to keep their current health coverage for two years.
The Continuous Coverage Act "keeps faith with consumers who want the option of maintaining their current coverage and follows Udall's continued efforts to make sure the health law works better for Coloradans," Udall's office said in a news release.
"I have repeatedly said that the Affordable Care Act isn't perfect, and it will need to be improved as it is implemented. This common-sense bill ensures the health reform law allows Coloradans to maintain insurance coverage," said Udall, a Colorado Democrat. "I share the concern that some health insurance companies are choosing to cancel thousands of Coloradans' plans. That's why my common-sense bill will allow Coloradans the option to keep their current coverage if they want or to purchase new plans through the Connect for Health Colorado marketplace that may better meet their health care needs."
Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans have been notified by insurance carriers that they're losing their health care coverage in light of the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," and related industry changes. That's according to the Colorado Division of Insurance in a count of people on health plans canceled by 23 carriers in the wake of new federal requirements.
In some cases, the insurance plans do not include the benefits that are required by Obama's signature health care reform law as of Jan. 1. In other cases, the companies don't want to write that particular line of business any longer.
Udall says his Continuous Coverage Act would:
--Ensure that consumers have the choice to keep their current health insurance coverage -- despite any cancellation notices -- for a full two years through Dec. 31, 2015.
--Help smooth the transition from our current system to the newly-crafted health insurance marketplaces.
Udall said his bill comes after a meeting last week at the White House in which Udall pressed President Obama to ensure the Affordable Care Act and its implementation works for Colorado. Udall has urged the president to extend the law's enrollment period nationally due to problems with HealthCare.gov, the problem-plagued federal website where Americans have had trouble signing up for insurance coverage.
Republican State Rep. Amy Stephens, who is running against Udall in next year's U.S. Senate race, blasted what she called "Udall's phony Obamacare ploy."
"Senator Mark Udall was the deciding vote in favor of ObamaCare, and he is the reason why millions of Americans are losing their health insurance," Stephens said in a statement. "Senator Udall’s legislation is nothing more than a phony political ploy that will only temporarily delay insurance cancellations instead of actually stopping them. When Senator Udall promised Coloradans they could keep their health insurance, he didn't put a time stamp on it, but today, he offers a half measure that is simply insufficient and politically motivated."
Yet, Stephens has taken heat herself from conservative Republicans over her sponsorship of 2011 state legislation that set up Colorado's health insurance exchange, a key provision of president's health care reform law.
Meanwhile, Udall said he also pressed the White House to ensure that the HealthCare.gov website can keep consumers' personal information secure.
Additionally, Udall cosponsored legislation introduced today by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, which would extend the enrollment period for the new state- and federally-administered health insurance marketplaces, allowing consumers ample time to compare their health insurance options once the website is working properly.