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CareFirst, Kaiser will allow health plan renewals in Maryland

Wednesday - 11/20/2013, 5:29pm  ET

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Permanente will allow Maryland customers to renew insurance policies that had been scheduled for cancellation in 2014, taking advantage of President Barack Obama's decision last week to not enforce the Affordable Care Act's minimum coverage standards.

The extended policies will reflect the most recently approved rate, which may have been increased since those customers initially purchased the plan.

CareFirst customers have until Dec. 16 to renew, the insurer said.

If either company is unhappy about these developments, or felt politically pressured, it's not giving any indication of it. (Many experts said the last-minute backtracking from Obama would undermine insurers' financial projections.)

“We are extremely pleased to be able to extend this opportunity to our individual subscribers and their families and fully support this step that the [Maryland] has now afforded us," said CareFirst CEO Chet Burrell. "This provides a meaningful opportunity for those subscribers who act quickly to secure their existing coverage through the end of 2014."

On Tuesday, the Maryland Insurance Administration indicated that carriers are allowed to renew plans early, even if the plans don't comply with the law.

Kaiser Permanente issued this statement on Wednesday: "Kaiser Permanente supports the goals of the ACA and the transition to the new law. Our communication to consumers will strive to fully inform them of their options, including the option to continue existing coverage through 2014 and the availability of coverage through the Maryland Health Connection."

D.C. and Virginia regulators have not announced whether they intend to allow carriers to do the same. Both say they're still figuring out the legal ramifications of such a move.

But here's the thing: Maryland carriers were already allowed to do this, and in September, the insurance administration issued a press release reminding customers they don't have to renew if they don't want to. That's still true. Consumers are free to choose a new, Obamacare-compliant (and usually more costly) plan from the Maryland exchange.

CareFirst gave a number people can call to get details about their own situation: 855-300-7751.

© 2013 American City Business Journals, Inc.