White House tweaks law for health-plan purchases
Change will allow million to buy bare-bones policies next year
The Obama administration said Thursday it would allow millions of Americans whose insurance policies had been canceled to purchase bare-bones plans next year, in another 11th-hour tweak to the law likely to cause consternation among health insurers.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a group of six senators in a letter that people whose policies had been canceled because of new requirements under the Affordable Care Act would be allowed to purchase “catastrophic” plans. Those plans previously had been restricted under the new law to people under the age of 30 or those who qualified for a set of specific hardship exemptions.
Catastrophic plans generally have lower premiums than other plans but offer more limited benefits. They typically cover three primary-care visits a year and some preventive benefits, but beyond that they only cover large medical costs after a high deductible. Carriers offering them for the coming year already have cleared the plans with state regulators and set prices in the expectation that few people over the age of 30 would be purchasing them.
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Angus King of Maine, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota had urged Sebelius to allow the changes to the rules in a letter dated Wednesday.