In response to increasing pressure from the media, Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner on Friday released the letter his health-insurance provider sent him last month canceling his policy — a letter he has referred to in a series of interviews this week in which he decried the effects of the Affordable Care Act.
But the letter has been redacted and so says nothing directly about the plan that was canceled and so will do little to answer the main questions raised by Gardner’s account of events: What kind of plan do you have now and why would it cost double the rate to buy “inferior” coverage, as you have asserted?
Gardner has been a strident critic of “Obamacare.” He capaigned against it on the stump in 2010 and 2012, and he has voted more than 40 times to defund it, including this week during the standoff that shut down the government. In recent interviews, he claimed the cancelation letter demonstrates that the health reform law is an overreach that will limit consumer choice.
“In July we notified you about the upcoming discontinuation of your current ______ plan,” reads the letter from Rocky Mountain Health Plans. However, keeping your coverage with _________ is simple and straightforward.”
The letter includes an attached document with more information, including information about the new Connect for Health Colorado Affordable Care Act exchange.
“It is possible that a plan similar to the one you have now may be less expensive if purchased through Connect for Health Colorado, or through another insurance company,” it says and then includes a list of its plans with the kind of rates Gardner said he would be forced to pay.
But Gardner hasn’t said whether he tried to find an alternative on the state’s exchange, as was he was recommended to do, and if he did, what he found there. The Independent found a generic Bronze Plan for someone with Gardner’s income and number of family members through the new Kaiser exchange-rate calculator for the same rate he’s paying now.
No one ever questioned whether or not Gardner’s plan was canceled. Rocky Mountain Health Plans, like other insurers across the country, has explained, as they do in the letter, that their canceled policies are not up to the new consumer standards put in place by the Affordable Care Act, but that new comparable plans will be available, either from insurers directly or through the new state health care exchanges.
The company posted 52 plans on the Colorado’s exchange.
As Gardner’s letter explains, the new health care law requires insurers to provide plans that offer a higher minimum level of coverage than they have done in the past. They have to provide baseline mental heath and reproductive health coverage, for example, and they can’t deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
It’s unclear how the same price for a plan could gain less or “inferior” coverage now.
“My plan was canceled, and the plan replacing it is more costly, inferior,” Gardner Tweeted Friday.
“The closest comparable plan through our current provider will cost over 100 percent more, going from roughly $650 a month to $1,480 per month,” he told the National Review earlier this week.
But Rocky Mountain Health Plans told the Colorado Independent that Gardner could find a comparable plan on the Connect for Health Colorado exchange. Chief Marketer Neil Waldron said Gardner’s cheapest bet in the same range would be the company’s new Bronze Plan.
Waldron said it’s hard to know what Gardner is looking for, that you have to be comparing apples to apples.
“There are a lot of factors driving costs,” he said. “There are broad physician provider networks and smaller networks. Some plans draw from three hospitals systems, some may make a deal with only one so the hospital is prompted to offer better rates. Other plans choose [networks] according to whichever have the most cost-efficient doctors.”
Waldron said the market is complex and so information can be distorted or misunderstood.
“A lot of people don’t understand it and that’s been a problem,” he said.