President Barack Obama’s move to let insurance companies renew policies cancelled because of health reform will have little effect in Wisconsin because the state was already letting policies stay in place for most of next year, a state official said.

But Obama’s announcement Thursday that people on the individual market can keep existing coverage instead of shifting to the exchange next year could make exchange coverage more expensive and unstable, an insurance executive said.

“We’re concerned that the new regulations will fragment the risk pool and ultimately destabilize the market, which will result in higher premiums for consumers,” said Terry Bolz, president and CEO of Unity Health Plan.

The state has been letting insurers and consumers renew individual market policies Dec. 1, regardless of what month the policies would have expired next year, said Dan Schwartzer, deputy insurance commissioner.

The Affordable Care Act requires better benefits than provided by some plans today, generally with higher premiums, whenever plans are renewed after Jan. 1. Wisconsin’s early renewal policy moves the trigger date for many people from Jan. 1 to Dec. 1, 2014, Schwartzer said.

He said insurers didn’t cancel many policies in the state, though there’s no official count of cancellation notices.

“Since we embraced the early renewal process, there won’t be much of an effect,” Schwartzer said. “If there were a lot of cancellations, we would be getting calls. Those calls are not coming in.”

About 180,000 people buy insurance on the individual market in Wisconsin.

Bolz said about half of Unity’s 2,000 individual market customers and half of its small employer groups have renewed early.

Scott Shoemaker, spokesman for Physician Plus, said the insurer expects a “high percentage” of its 4,000 individual market customers to renew early.

WPS Health Insurance, which has about 22,800 individual market customers, didn’t cancel any policies, said spokeswoman Ellen Foley.

Jeanan Yasiri Moe, spokeswoman for Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin, said GHC is encouraging its 1,900 individual market customers to renew early and hasn’t sent any cancellation notices.

Obama’s announcement “has very little impact on GHC,” she said.


David Wahlberg is the health and medicine reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.