Under the Dome

Hagan attempts to answer health care questions

Updated to add comment from Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is attempting to clarify what she knew about people not being able to keep their insurance plans under the affordable care act and when she knew it. Republicans have been hammering her on the questions.

The Democratic senator facing a tight re-election race has made the same point before. Here’s what she said in a statement to television news WTVD on Friday:

“When this law was written, we established a three-year transition period so that insurance companies had time to begin offering plans that met the requirements of the law for the 5 percent of people on the individual market.

“As I’ve made clear, I didn’t know that some insurance companies would use that transition period to sell outdated plans without fully notifying consumers that they would no longer be available in 2014. But as soon as it came to my attention last fall, when I heard from constituents who felt blindsided by the fact that their plans were no longer available, I immediately did something about it, signing onto a bill to let people keep their plans permanently.”

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Brook Hougesen said in an email on Friday in response to Hagan’s statement that Hagan was lying about when she knew when some people would lose their health care plans. She said that Hagan and other Senate Democrats voted to support a rule to implement the law in a September 2010 vote. That rule “is responsible for the cancellation of people's health insurance,” Hougesen said in the email.

The rule specified how much plans that were in place as of March 23, 2010, could be changed and still remain grandfathered under the law. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., proposed an amendment that would have eliminated the rule. Democrats said that if it was passed, insurance companies could have made any changes they liked to insurance policies and the policies still would have been grandfathered under the law. Democrats unanimously voted against Enzi’s amendment and defeated it.

Hagan’s campaign argues that even if the Enzi amendment had passed, it still would not have applied to new health insurance plans sold to people on the individual market after the law went into effect. Some of those plans did not meet the new law's standards and were canceled in 2013.

“Some insurance companies continued to sell plans during the transition that didn’t meet the standards of the law without fully notifying consumers and the Enzi amendment would not have prevented that,” said Hagan campaign spokeswoman Sadie Weiner on Monday.

Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina on Tuesday objected to Hagan’s statement. Insurers needed to wait for regulations that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued in February 2013, before they could create and sell health plans that complied with the law, said spokeswoman Michelle Douglas.

She also said that the company communicated with its customers beginning in 2010 about the changes the law could mean for their health plans.

Hagan said in her statement that she was working to fix the health care law, but her leading Republican opponent in her re-election campaign, state House Speaker Thom Tillis “is not answering questions or being honest about what he would do to people’s health care.

“Speaker Tillis would let insurance companies discriminate against preexisting conditions, charge women more for care and make seniors pay more for prescription drugs. Speaker Tillis is misleading North Carolinians about where I stand, because he knows he can’t defend his own position.”