Yesterday, the President announced a purported fix to the problem that, under the PPACA, insurance companies are not allowed to renew policies that fail to comply with PPACA requirements, even if consumers like their existing plans. This was not an accident. Forcing all health insurance policies to comply with federal minimum requirements was a key part of the law, and regulations implementing the relevant provisions ensured many plans could not be renewed. As the WSJ reported, the White House always knew that not everyone who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it, even if some thought most affected consumers would be happy to be forced to obtain “better” plans.
According to the President’s announcement, insurance companies will be allowed to renew policies that were in force as of October 1, 2013 for one additional year, even if they fail to meet relevant PPACA requirements. What is the legal basis for this change? The Administration has not cited any. (See, e.g., this letter to state insurance commissioners explaining the change.) According to various press reports, the Administration argues it may do this as a matter of enforcement discretion (much as it did with immigration). In other words, the Administration is not changing the law. It’s just announcing it will not enforce federal law (while simultaneously threatening to veto legislation that would authorize the step the President has decided to take).
Does this make the renewal of non-compliant policies legal? No. The legal requirement remains on the books so the relevant health insurance plans remain illegal under federal law. The President’s decision does not change relevant state laws either. So insurers will still need to obtain approval from state insurance commissioners. This typically requires submitting rates and plan specifications for approval. This can take some time, [...]