Due to the increase in premium cost for the CNMI government employee health plan extension, many government employees are looking for other healthcare coverage options to fulfill their needs. Currently, however, no health insurance carriers in the CNMI have filed 2014 policies or premium rates for the individual or small group market with the CNMI Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
“According to the CNMI Insurance Code, health insurance carriers must file their rates and forms with my office before they can sell them. No new filings so far in 2014 means there are no new health insurance policies being sold lawfully in the CNMI,” said Commerce Secretary and CNMI Insurance Commissioner Sixto K. Igisomar.
CNMI insurance companies have expressed concern about selling new policies in 2014 because, due to the strict new rules required under the Affordable Care Act, if one new policy is sold in a given market in 2014, this policy must be offered to everyone, regardless of health status. This “guaranteed availability” provision is one of the reasons insurance company representatives have told Igisomar that they are reluctant to sell new health insurance policies in 2014. Under the guaranteed availability provision, new plans in 2014 must offer robust coverage to anyone during open enrollment, even to someone who is already sick and in the hospital.
“Many people don’t know that if they opt out of the CNMI government health plan right now, they won’t be able to get coverage elsewhere, such as with Staywell, SelectCare, TakeCare, or NetCare because these companies haven’t filed new plans for 2014 with the CNMI Insurance Section,” stated Kaitlyn Mocanu of the CNMI Consumer Assistance Program. “I wish I could direct consumers that walk in my door to more health insurance options, but I have to tell people that the only way to get health insurance in the CNMI now is from your employer. It hurts to have to tell that to someone who is unemployed, self-employed or their employer doesn’t offer insurance coverage.”
Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Igisomar are working to change this.
“We are working closely with local health insurance carriers, Gov. Inos, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of the Interior to find ways to mitigate the negative impacts we are seeing in the territories with the implementation of the ACA and to open up these health insurance markets so everyone can have access to coverage,” said Igisomar.
Mocanu advises residents who are seeking health insurance coverage to first verify with carriers selling insurance or accepting new applications that their rates or policies are legitimate and in compliance with both local law and the Affordable Care Act.
CNMI residents with further questions on this issue are encouraged to contact Mocanu at the CNMI Consumer Assistance Program for more information. Contact her at (670) 664-3005 or 483-0104 or send an email to email@example.com.(Office of the Governor)