The National Republican Senatorial Committee today sent out a press release, claiming Secretary of State Natalie Tennant would “run on Obamacare” in her 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate, which included a startling fact: “in West Virginia, 147,000 people in the individual insurance market are at risk of losing their health insurance.”
It was startling because it’s way above any estimate we’ve seen regarding canceled insurance plans, or even the number of people who purchase individual health insurance plans in this state.
The figure represents the number of people with individually-purchased insurance plans, a number collected by the U.S. Census’s Current Population Survey (as NRSC spokeswoman Brook Hougesen pointed out). The NRSC is suggesting that each of those people could lose their health insurance under new rules instituted as part of the Affordable Care Act.
While that theoretically could happen — and some state residents are losing their health insurance plans — it’s probably stretching it to assume all 147,000 self-insured people have lackluster plans.
As you can read in today’s Daily Mail, the state insurance commissioner has received about 8,800 discontinuation notices so far for individual plans.
The Affordable Care Act places new requirements on health insurance plans. If plans don’t meet these basic requirements, insurance companies are required to change or cancel them.
People with canceled plans will be eligible for new (probably better) insurance through the government’s health insurance marketplace…although few have been able to purchase insurance through the site since it launched last month. The Obama administration says it’s still working out the kinks.
The 147,000 figure is surprising for other reasons, too. Every other statistic I’ve seen about West Virginia’s individual healthcare market has shown the group to be much, much smaller.
An actuarial study commissioned by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin earlier this year found 28,000 people currently have individually-purchased healthcare. And according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, around 25,000 state residents had individual health plans in 2011.
“Currently we have about 28,000 in our individual market. That’s not even within the margin of error,” said Brandon Merritt, healthcare analyst for the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy.
On a side note, it’s this reporter’s opinion Tennant won’t spend much time talking about the Affordable Care Act on the campaign trail, at least at this point.
President Obama is incredibly unpopular here (so unpopular he lost to a federal inmate in several counties during the May 2012 primaries) and the roll-out of the federal health insurance marketplace website has been anything but smooth. I just don’t see those things coming up too often in stump speeches.
Tennant’s campaign released a short statement last night about the NRSC press release. Here’s an excerpt:
(Tennant) is extremely disappointed that there are too few options for West Virginians at too high a cost. Natalie has called for a delay in the penalty for not signing up for insurance, and supports West Virginians being allowed to keep their existing plans because our state should never be penalized for Washington’s mistakes.