Practice Economics

Administration to allow noncompliant health policies through 2017


The Obama Administration said that it will allow through 2016 renewals of health insurance policies that do not meet the minimum criteria established by the Affordable Care Act.

Each state has the final say on whether such policies can continue to be sold, but the move by the White House will help remove some of the hurdles, a senior administration official said March 5.

In November, President Obama said that, to avoid cancellations, the federal government would let insurers renew, for 1 year, policies that did not contain the essential health benefits outlined by the ACA. That would give policyholders who did renew time to find new coverage.

Kathleen Sebelius

About half of the states agreed to allow renewals after the policy change, but some states with the largest number of such policyholders – including California, Washington, New York, and Maryland – refused to allow renewals.

Now, in a wide-ranging rule that covers many aspects of the ACA for 2015, the administration said that noncompliant policies can be renewed as late as Oct. 1, 2016. No new policies can be issued. States that chose not to allow the renewals before also can change their decisions, senior administration officials said.

In 2015, the administration also is giving consumers an additional month to shop for coverage on the federal and state health insurance exchanges for 2015: Open enrollment will run from Nov. 15, 2014, to Feb. 15, 2015.

The rule also reduces out-of-pocket limits for individuals and families who buy coverage through the exchanges. Depending on income, individuals will pay a maximum of $2,250 to $5,200, and families will pay $4,500 to $10,400.

"These policies implement the health care law in a common-sense way by continuing to smooth the transition for consumers and stakeholders and fixing problems wherever the law provides flexibility," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "This comprehensive guidance will help ensure that consumers, employers and insurers have the information they need to plan for next year and make it easier for families to make decisions to access quality, affordable coverage."

The administration said that it had worked on the guidance for 2015 with input from consumers, states, businesses, health professionals, insurance commissioners, insurers, and members of Congress.

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