White House Revises Coverage Mandate for People with Canceled Plans
Last week, the Obama Administration announced a temporary reprieve from the Affordable Care Act’s coverage mandate for consumers whose health plans have been canceled because they do not meet minimum coverage requirements. Under the new rules, consumers affected by cancellations will be allowed to avoid the law’s individual mandate penalty next year by purchasing catastrophic coverage (in lieu of a more expensive “qualified plan”) and claiming a “hardship exemption.” The announcement came one day after six Democratic Senators sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, urging her to allow affected consumers to claim the hardship exception and buy the catastrophic plans, which have been typically purchased by individuals under age 30.
The decision is the latest in a series of changes to the law and came just ahead of a deadline for people to choose plans that begin Jan. 1. It prompted a backlash from the health insurance industry, which said the rules change will result in consumer confusion and marketplace instability. It also sparked criticism from Republicans about arbitrary changes to the law. GOP lawmakers have repeatedly called for the ACA to be defunded or delayed, especially in light of massive rollout problems. The White House and Senate Democrats have denied these requests, saying the law is moving forward despite challenges.