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Nixon administration to allow insurers to extend policies that don't comply with the ACA

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Individual insurance policy holders in Missouri may be allowed to keep their policies in 2014, even if they don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has announced that his administration’s Department of Insurance is notifying health insurers that they will be allowed to extend such policies, if they desire.

“Today’s announcement seeks to address the recent uncertainty and disruptions policyholders have faced as a result of federal regulations and is yet another example of how states are better-positioned to provide efficient and effective oversight of the insurance market,” Nixon said in a statement.

“Here in Missouri, my administration has been committed from Day One to fostering a stable, predictable insurance market and making sure Missourians have access to quality, affordable health insurance options,” the governor said. “I applaud Director Huff for his continued efforts to provide certainty in this area and ensure all Missourians, including those affected by recent disruptions in the insurance market, have access to quality, affordable health coverage.”

However, the final decision on whether to extend those policies is up to the insurance companies, who have had control on what policies to issue or cancel, until the Affordable Care Act imposed some restrictions.

It's also unclear if Nixon's decision will lead to higher premiums in Missouri for individual policy holders who obtain coverage on the federal exchange, once its web site is running properly.

The ACA had ordered that insurance policies that don't comply with its provisions cannot be sold after Jan 1, 2014.  President Barack Obama announced earlier this month that his administration would allow an extension of such policies, but not all insurers and states have complied.

Some states are blocking any extension, saying they could lead to higher premiums for people who purchase insurance on the new exchanges. And some insurers say that they have no desire to reinstate canceled policies.

Nixon's announcement marked the first time he had weighed in on the matter.  Nixon has said that Missouri would have been better served if it had set up its own insurance exchange, rather than rely on the federal exchange. Missouri Republican legislative leaders blocked the creation of a state exchange.

Nixon also has been pressing for more than a year for legislators to approve the expansion of Medicaid, as recommended under the ACA, since the federal government will pay all the costs for three years, and at least 90 percent thereafter.

A meeting that he had proposed with legislators next week to discuss health insurance and Medicaid has been canceled because of a dispute on how the session would be conducted, and where.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.