Tomi Lauren on Obamacare 

Are the Democrats finally admitting what a sack of crap Obamacare is?

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HHS offers another Obamacare extension to avoid ‘canceled’ health plans

ImageThe Obama administration will   allow some health plans that fall short of Obamacare coverage requirements to   continue past the November elections and through most of President Barack   Obama’s second term.

 The decision, announced   Wednesday by federal health officials, extends for two years an earlier   decision by the White House to let people keep their existing health plans   through 2014, even if those plans fell short of Affordable Care Act   requirements. Under the new policy, some people could renew plans in 2016,   meaning they’d be covered into 2017.

Without the change, Democrats   worried that another wave of canceled health policies would hit just weeks   before the November 2014 midterm elections, setting off more recriminations   over Obama’s earlier pledge that people can keep their plans if they like   them. 

The new policy could have a   limited practical impact. The extension is optional for both states and the   health plans themselves. To date, only about half the states have allowed the   older, often skimpier, plans to continue. And some insurers want to scrap   them to maximize enrollment in the new health insurance exchanges. And   officials predict more Americans will migrate to the new plans, particularly   if they qualify for subsidies.

One official said the number of   people in plans that have been extended is “falling quite rapidly.”

Republicans quickly lambasted   the move as blatant 2014 politics and another sign that the administration   just can’t get the law to work.

“The Obama   administration’s announcement today that it will continue to allow insurers   to sell health care plans that don’t meet Obamacare minimum coverage   requirements is not only another reminder of the president’s broken promise   that you can keep your plan if you like it but represents a desperate move to   protect vulnerable Democrats in national elections later this year,”   Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

The Obama administration said   the move, revealed in a conference call with senior administration officials,   isn’t politics. “The goal is to implement the Affordable Care Act in a   common-sense way and to try to provide a smooth transition for consumers and   employers,” an official said on the call.

Documents accompanying the   announcement reveal that the changes were crafted “in close   consultation” with a large contingent of vulnerable Democrats, including   Sens. Mark Warner, Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen and Mark Udall as well as   Reps. Tim Bishop, Elizabeth Esty, Carol Shea-Porter, Gary Peters, Scott   Peters, Ann McLane Kuster, Kyrsten Sinema, Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber.

The changes, part of new   regulations and guidance issued by the Department of Health and Human   Services, will give some consumers an extra two years to remain on health   plans that would otherwise be canceled for failing to meet Obamacare’s   minimum coverage requirements. Many of those plans had already been given a   one-year reprieve in November 2013, but now they could be sold through 2016.   It also extends the offer to people in small group health insurance plans,   where small businesses could also have faced plan cancellations in the coming   year.

The insurance industry has   worried that the move to “un-cancel” plans could make it harder for   the new markets to succeed, and some strong backers of the law also worry.   Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), for instance, said in an interview that he’d rather   see people in the newer policies with stronger coverage.

“We’ve been through this   before. They made that decision – fine,” Harkin said. “A lot of   people say they have policies that they don’t pay very much for but I put it   this way: they’re great policies as long as you don’t get sick.”

A new rule also requires that   an Obamacare program intended to protect insurers from unexpected costs is   fully funded by the insurance industry, rather than by taxpayers. Republicans   have said that taxpayers could be on the hook for an insurance industry   “bailout” through these provisions.

The rule also outlines the   administration’s plan to implement SHOP exchanges for small businesses. The   federal one had been delayed a year. The Treasury Department also said it was   streamlining some of the paperwork for employers. 

Source: Kyle Cheney, Politico   Pro

Producers vindicated as House slams navigators

After months of feeling ignored in favor of government-funded navigators, producers are finally enjoying their time in the spotlight. They’re also enjoying a bit of sweet vindication as a Republican-led House panel releases a report accusing navigators of committing significant errors and risking privacy.

Navigators, which were appointed in the Affordable Care Act rollout to help consumers enroll in health plans, have been giving enrollees bad information and haven’t done enough to protect privacy, the report said.

“Documents call into question the effectiveness of the Navigator program and the Obama administration’s ability to safeguard consumer information,” the House Oversight Committee concluded.  Click Here for full story:  http://bit.ly/1bQmn0z

As The Policy Cancellation and Extension Saga Turns

At the conclusion of last week’s episode in the real-life drama of individual and small-group health insurance policy cancellations, President Obama had gone on television and announced that if insurance commissioners and individual carriers wanted to, it was fine by him if they simply extended non-PPACA compliant plan coverage in effect as of October 1, 2013, for another 12 months. The National Association of Health Underwriter’s (www.NAHU.org) began keeping an up-to-date chart on the decisions states and carriers made on the matter and our friends at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) got tricky and made a color-coded map. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow insurers to keep selling new non-compliant plans in 2014 and insurance company CEOs were seen entering and exiting the White House looking confused and unhappy. Image

This week, the show has been no less exciting. It started with weekend drama when the DC Insurance Commissioner, William White, was fired over a press statement that essentially said as a former actuary he would give the president’s plan all due consideration, but in general it didn’t sound like the greatest idea. Then the president and his surrogates announced that they didn’t intend to give insurers much regulatory relief in implementing the plan, particularly with regard to their request for reinsurance help if the extension policy does indeed result in market instability and adverse selection. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) took this a step further and proposed a bill to eliminate the law’s risk sharing mechanisms, which are consumer and insurer funded means of helping to shore up insurers that absorb more than their fair share of unhealthy consumers due to the law’s guarantee issue and community rating provisions.  

After that, more and more states insurance commissioners began announcing their decisions and quite a few said no thank you. Among the naysayers was the Covered California board, even though the state’s insurance commissioner had previously been positive. To try and smooth things over, President Obama invited some of the insurance commissioners over to the White House for a chat. Some of the commissioners went to the West Wing for what has been described as an awkward meeting, but six prominent commissioners wrote him a very polite letter saying thanks, but we think its in the best interest of our states if we stay home.

Thereafter, Families USA came out with a study claiming the whole problem was a bit overblown. Late yesterday afternoon, HHS released a letter templatefor insurers to use with consumers who may be able to stay in extended policies and then today they told the world that the last day people have to buy coverage in 2013 for a January 1 effective date is really December 23, not the previously reported December 15. Insurers quickly responded that changing dates again at the last minute is problematic for all, especially considering the wonky enrollment system and also reminded the world that coverage won’t actually be in force on January 1 if the insurer doesn’t have their premium money in hand by then.

We are hoping that our lawmakers will air a rerun next week, since both Congress and your Washington Update authoresses plan on leaving town to celebrate Thanksgiving. But regardless if new drama occurs or we just see more of the same, we’ll include another thrilling plot synopsis of the cancellation and renewal saga in our upcoming blog posts…

2015 Open Enrollment Delayed – for political reasons…

At around 10:00 p.m. Thursday (11/21/13), a HHS spokesperson, who asked to remain anonymous because the announcement is not yet official, divulged that the 2015 open enrollment period will be delayed one month, ostensibly to give insurers more time to set rates and to give consumers more time to shop for plans. The open enrollment period change, which does not impact this year’s open enrollment at all, means that people will begin being allowed to enroll in exchange plans November 15, 2014, and the enrollment window will end on January 15, 2015.

Coincidentally, this move pushes the open enrollment start date back until after the 2014 mid-term elections, meaning that voters will get official word about potential 2015 federal marketplace policy rate increases a week after the mid-terms, whereas they would have heard about the rate increases prior to the elections had open enrollment started in October. If you think the press President Obama has been receiving since the exchanges launched has been bad, just wait until 2015. If 2015 rates are higher than 2014 many will consider the law to be a bigger train wreck than they do right now. The healthcare.gov complications have deterred many from participating in the exchanges, but in order for the exchanges to function as envisioned, more people, specifically the young and healthy, need to enroll. The delayed open enrollment deadline gives insurers more time to analyze the markets and set rates for the coming year, but if the young and healthy don’t join their risk pools during 2014, nothing the Administration does to change enrollment times will be able to help the impact on prices and competition in 2015.

Senator Shaheen Sends HHS A Letter About Agent Concerns with Exchange Enrollment

Senator Shaheen Sends HHS A Letter About Agent Concerns with Exchange Enrollment

Earlier today, Senior Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, expressing her concern that the Administration is not doing enough to promote the role of marketplace-certified health insurance agents and brokers who can adequately help enroll individuals and small businesses in marketplace-based coverage. She also highlighted that many of the agents and brokers in her state of New Hampshire are still having a difficult time gaining access to the federal marketplace and the access problem the agents and brokers are having go beyond the consumer healthcare.gov issues. Senator Shaheen urged Secretary Sebelius to take action on many of the issues NAHU has raised with HHS and CMS. Thank you Senator Shaheen!  Brokers are with you for the long term:  http://youtu.be/9uyeSBKEKOQ

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