Health Plan Cancellations Delayed Two More Years

Health Plan Cancellations Delayed Two More Years
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The Obama administration announced Wednesday that existing insurance policyholders will be able to keep some insurance plans for another two years, even though the coverage doesn’t meet requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

The government said the latest in a series of ACA modifications that began last year offered “certainty and clarity” to policyholders, states and insurance companies well into 2017.

The changes let some consumers avoid -- for a longer period -- cancellation of their policies, followed by the sudden search for new and sometimes more expensive coverage. The adjustments extended a grace period offered by the administration last fall to people who purchased their health insurance in the individual and small-group markets, only to discover that insurance companies eliminated some plans that no longer met the government’s standards.

Administration officials said they were motivated to extend compliance “flexibility” to a small population for another two years during the law’s transition phase, based on feedback they received from “stakeholders.” Consumers who were advised last fall that they could extend their existing, non-compliant coverage this year, if their state insurance commissioners and insurers approved, can gain several more years before coming into compliance, administration officials said.

Nonetheless, almost all Americans will continue to face a March 31 deadline to obtain ACA-compliant insurance or to enroll for approved coverage through federal and state insurance marketplaces, one senior administration official added. Some lawmakers have urged the administration to extend the enrollment period beyond March 31, but the official said the deadline will not be moved.

In its most recent tally, the administration reported more than 3.3 million people had enrolled for coverage in the federal and state exchanges from October through mid-February.

When asked whether Americans should anticipate other executive branch modifications beyond those announced Wednesday, the official said, “No major changes are anticipated at this point.” He also said the latest grace period “is not open-ended” and impacts “a relatively small fraction” of the total population.

The official did not directly refute critics who say President Obama’s motivation is more to cushion a painful political transition for some Democratic candidates than to ease a challenging compliance phase for a small number of policyholders.

“I think about it in a completely different way,” the senior official said, politely acknowledging why reporters asked him if November’s elections prompted the executive branch to sidestep more canceled policies.

“I feel that we’re doing this the right way, for the right reasons,” he explained. 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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