White House Offers Stopgap Health Insurance Option

Health Overhaul Deadline Extended
Susan Walsh/APHealth and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR

WASHINGTON -- People whose existing health insurance has been canceled because of the Affordable Care Act won't be hit with tax penalties for failing to line up new coverage as required under the law.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she will use authorities in the law to issue a "temporary hardship exemption" from those penalties.

Under another stopgap option Sebelius announced Thursday, those whose plans were canceled will be able to buy a bare-bones catastrophic plan regardless of their age. Such plans had been intended for those under 30.

A dedicated hotline for people who got cancellations -- 866-837-0677 -- is being set up by the Health and Human Services Department as part of the effort to head off more bad news coming from the chaotic rollout of President Barack Obama's health care law.

Democrats praised the steps as a common-sense backup in a difficult situation while Republicans panned the administration action as another patch to an unworkable law. The insurance industry immediately criticized the moves.

"This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers," said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans. Only Wednesday, the industry had announced its own accommodation -- giving consumers an extra 10 days to pay January's premiums.

The Oct. 1 launch of the HealthCare.gov website became an embarrassment for the administration after problems with the online gateway to coverage froze out millions of potential customers.
But the biggest political damage to the president has come from cancellations issued to at least 4 million people who had individual plans they purchased themselves. Those plans didn't pass muster under the health care law, which generally requires more robust benefits.

On Thursday, the administration estimated at less than 500,000 those who have not yet found other coverage in the wake of seeing their coverage canceled.

Obama was roundly criticized for reneging on a longstanding promise that if you liked your plan, you would be able to keep it under his health care law. The president apologized, and then said insurers could extend those plans for one more year. Most state regulators followed Obama's lead and gave insurance companies the additional latitude, but it's unclear whether the problem has been fully resolved.

Although the website is now working more smoothly, there's still a concern that technology problems may prevent some people who got cancellations from signing up for a new plan. Consumers have until Dec. 23 -- Monday -- to pick a plan if they want their coverage to take effect Jan. 1, thus avoiding a break in coverage. The industry says it will accept payment of the first month's premiums until Jan. 10. Timely payment is required for the new plan to take effect.

"There still may be a small number of consumers who are not able to renew their existing plans and are having difficulty finding an acceptable replacement," Sebelius wrote Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and several of his colleagues, adding: "These consumers should qualify for this temporary hardship exemption."

Insurers are concerned that healthy customers who potentially would have bought full coverage may now stay out of the market, leaving the companies with a group of patients in worse health overall.


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17 Comments

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nthereoff

Hope Obama enjoy his vacation. We all are going to need one soon.

December 22 2013 at 6:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
betty_brock

Sad that the liberals are trying to ruin the economy. Obamacare may just do it.

December 21 2013 at 5:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to betty_brock's comment
chris1011

Lets see now...

Dow Jones:

Jan 2013: 13,100
Dec. 2013: 16,200

Since 1975, there have been only been six years: 1975,1985,1999,1996,1999, and 2003 that have had a better growth rate than 2013.

Unemployment rate:

Jan. 2013: 7.9
Dec. 2013: 7.0

December 21 2013 at 5:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chris1011's comment
betty_brock

I'd like to see the REAL numbers.

December 21 2013 at 7:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
fritz

it's the right wing conservatives you should be blaming for this!

December 23 2013 at 3:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
klugsw

AOL is currently running an article about the 10 reasons you will never be rich. Many of those middle classers posting here about how the "affluent" should pay more taxes and/or subsidized their insurance will, for exactly those ten reasons, never be "affluent". Unless you are highly talented, born to the right family, or just plain lucky, you only get to be "affluent" by working hard and depriving yourself for years and years of many of the things that the less affluent are unwilling to deprive themselves. Of course, it is easy to simply vote yourself into the pockets of the "affluent" to make up for your own spending habits. That's the progressive way.

December 21 2013 at 12:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
betty_brock

tsgarpirving / jimlapdance, the scumbag, posted what he though was my name and address all over these boards at AOL. I don't believe Evan would do that, sorry as he is.

December 20 2013 at 8:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to betty_brock's comment
betty_brock

That was several years ago. He hasn't changed.

December 20 2013 at 8:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
betty_brock

Obamacare is a disaster. Just scrap it.

December 20 2013 at 8:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
betty_brock

I see jimlapdance has been here. I'd like to ask him more about his Barbie collection and his toy airplanes.

December 20 2013 at 8:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to betty_brock's comment
betty_brock

He is now calling himself tsgarpirving.

December 20 2013 at 8:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
setanta54s_back

anyway,THEY'RE now calling this scatology health INSURANCE ?

what happened to all the bs on health CARE ?

seems they had a PROBLEM DIFFERENTIATING THE 2.

yapping on all about health INSURANCE and calling it health CARE at the time.

_______________

December 20 2013 at 7:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jimmy_branch

It's the lawless Wild West - let's just do whatever we please, wing it, make it up as we go along..

I'm recently unemployed in the state of Michigan aka Police state because of it's over sized government.

I went to the Obama care website and was told I don't qualify for medicaid- even though the website praises Michigan as a voluntary participant.

Then I was offered the option of purchasing several policies all costing thousands of dollars and offering bleak coverage. Hey, I'm unemployed remember!

A month later I received a letter saying that I wouldn't be held accountable to the penalty because I'm unemployed. Why couldn't the website tell me that then and there? Why did I have to worry for a month until I received the letter?

The letter also said that Michigan medicaid decided not to accept me; so Michigan gets all of this undeserved praise for participating in Obamacare when in fact Michigan is opting out.

This isn't working and does not make good sense. I want to believe Obama gad good intentions but the results are not so good.

December 20 2013 at 8:46 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jimmy_branch's comment
Mickylitz

Well jimmy...
Sorry to hear that you're unemployed, many are now days,
The whole obamacare thing stinks to high heaven and so is most of his policies.
America was at one time the best country in the world, this status has been shattered by the continued interference by the democrats to encourage hard work to succeed.
Your biggest mistake was to believe at obama and the democrats so called Good intentions !
I am almost positive that you will disagree with me you being from Michigan but regardless i wish you the best for finding a job and get insurance that you can afford..

December 20 2013 at 9:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jdykbpl45

Any legal revision of Obama Care can only be done by Congress.

This is the problem with democrats. Nancy Pelosi's arrogance when she told us that we could read the bill after it was passed, demonstrates the attitude of her party and President Obama.

This country has a Constitution. Obama should follow it.

December 20 2013 at 7:08 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jdykbpl45's comment
Mickylitz

jdykbpl45 ....
Nancy Pelosi's arrogance when she told us that we could read the bill after it was passed, demonstrates the attitude of her party and President Obama.
***********************************************************************
Nancy's arrogance should have been seen by many as a big red flag to where this administration is going with this.
I can't for the life of me believe that we have so many dumb people in this country after the so enormous amount of money the tax payers spend on our educational system,
What a waste of money for the type of results we're getting...

December 20 2013 at 7:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mickylitz's comment
Mickylitz

obamasam0r0n1 ,,,
"
You're right on all counts including your screen name but I think that " Obamasdespicable " is even more fitting...

December 20 2013 at 9:31 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down