The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, defined President Obama's first term. Photo via fb.com
A health plan seen by the state as a benchmark is extending its pre-Affordable Care Act individual and group health insurance plans to subscribers through 2016.
The move last week by Priority Health in Grand Rapids came after a recent decision by the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services, enabling health insurance providers in the state to allow members to maintain their pre-ACA-approved health insurance plans through October 2016.
Scott Norman, vice president of sales and client services at Priority Health, said although the state health care agency’s decision wasn’t expected, it didn’t come as a surprise to the organization.
“Probably the one constant with the ACA and the rollout has been change,” Norman said. “Historically, one of the constants of Priority Health has been flexibility and our ability to be innovative and flexible when the market changes either from market conditions or from something like the ACA, where you have the quick or sudden changes.”
Joan Budden, chief marketing officer at Priority Health, said the nonprofit organization applauds the agency’s decision and believes in providing options for consumers.
The extended plans give people "peace of mind and time to assess their options before being required to change under the ACA,” Budden said.
The general reaction from agents, employers and individuals to the 2016 extension has been very positive, Norman said.
“At the end of the day, giving more people choices to make the best decision for their business or individual is the right thing to do,” Norman said.
Priority Health was chosen as the benchmark plan by the state of Michigan for individual and group plans.
As a result, other insurance providers had to model their insurance benefits on Priority Health’s plans, which attempt to balance the cost and coverage between consumers and employers.
Since the 2013 plans were considered the benchmark model, it made the decision to offer an original extension of pre-ACA plans through 2014 easier, Norman said.
As the ACA continues to create fluid deadlines, health insurance providers have to manage pre-ACA and ACA-compliant health plans for their members.
Although the constant change influences the management and implementation of insurance plans, Norman said Priority Health tries to maintain flexibility throughout the process.
“Any time you have change, it does impact your ability to administer or manage plans,” Norman said. “We invested in the ability to provide that flexibility for agents, employers and individuals early on in the process, so the ability to manage it becomes somewhat straightforward for us at this point.”