Wednesday, April 16, 2014

People with insurance canceled by Obamacare can be exempted from mandate

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press

Published: Fri, Dec. 20 9:30 a.m. MST

 In this March 23, 2010 file photo, Marcelas Owens of Seattle, left, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., right, and others, look on as President Barack Obama signs the health care bill in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

In this March 23, 2010 file photo, Marcelas Owens of Seattle, left, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., right, and others, look on as President Barack Obama signs the health care bill in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

(J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — People whose existing health care insurance has been canceled because of the Affordable Care Act will not 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, 1-866-837-0677, 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 did not 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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1. Joan Watson
TWIN FALLS, ID,
Dec. 20, 2013

What will be the end result of all this government mandated health care confusion that has been thrust on the American citizen and allowed by a tax provision law? Time will tell the tale -as so far, all presidential lies have had us all fooled.

2. Meckofahess
Salt Lake City, UT,
Dec. 20, 2013

The President didn't lie about anything. In the rollout of something this complex, there will be glitches initially. The greedy insurance companies are the ones who lied for years saying we had coverage, but then in some cases when folks got really sick the insurance companies CANCELLED THEIR COVERAGE!. The insurance companies looked out for sick people by denying coverage to folks who had a pre-existing condition. President Obama had the courage to close some of those disingenuous practices and is attempting to make insurance coverage available to folks who could not get it or afford it in the past. How much did a decent private individual/family policy cost before Obamacare? A lot - that is how much - I've priced them and they are out of sight and no subsidies for the poor. I'm thankful for a good Christian President who follows the counsel of the scriptures and LDS authorities to have compassion for the poor and needy and to reach out to them. Thanks President Obama, you are a true humanitarian. Obamacare will get better over time - better solution than the zero solution offered by other politicians such as Senator Lee!

3. patriot
Cedar Hills, UT,
Dec. 20, 2013

insurance companies are going nuts trying to navigate this evolving train wreck of a bill. How can anyone plan anything when this crazy thing changes weekly? This thing is nothing but a mess of plumbers tape and bailing wire and each fresh move is only a fresh mistake.

4. Vanceone
Provo, UT,
Dec. 20, 2013

Meckofahess seems to need a remedial course in basic history.
1) The Obama Administration forced those cancellations. Period. The insurance companies HAD NO CHOICE! The Obama administration admitted as such in the official Governmental regulatory paper, the Federal Register. They estimated that over 77% of all plans would be FORCIBLY CANCELED. It's Obama's fault, pure, plain and simple.
2) It's "Christian" now to rob peter to pay paul? Such is liberal sophistry. Hey, you won't mind if I go to your house with a gun and take all your assets and give them to needier people, defined as those whose votes I can buy, right?
3) Obamacare, as currently defined, forces poor people, the ones who need healthcare the most, into Medicaid. And if any of those poor people use their "free healthcare", they lose their houses or other assets, due to the Medicaid recovery provisions. In other words, Obamacare is stealing from the poor.
4) Republicans offered tons of alternatives. Too bad the mainstream media refuses to acknowledge it.
5) Liberal fascism has never worked and never will. Obamacare, and Obama, are fascists. Government ordering private companies to do things is not freedom--its fascism. By definition.

5. mohokat
Ogden, UT,
Dec. 20, 2013

Meckofahess

The President didn't lie about anything.

Are you serious or have you been taking Ambien? On Thursday, Obama was awarded PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” Award. That would be over Syrias Assat.

Washington Post hardly a conservative paper gave him four pinocchio's.

Over 50% of those polled do not trust him.

Yep he is a good christian