Feds allow people whose health plans were canceled, and haven’t gotten a new one, to keep old one or get catastrophic plan

If you were among the 280,000 or so Kentuckians whose health plan didn’t meet the requirements of the federal health-reform law, and you haven’t enrolled in a qualified plan, you will be able to keep your old plan for a while, or buy a cheap, catastrophic-coverage plan that has been available only to people under 30, the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services announced Friday.

The Obama administration acted under the law’s “hardship” exemption  for people who “experienced financial or domestic circumstances, including
an unexpected natural or human-caused event, such that he or she had a
significant, unexpected increase in essential expenses that prevented
him or her from obtaining coverage under a qualified health plan.”

“For these people, in other words, Obamacare itself is the hardship,” writes Ezra Klein of The Washington Post. “The administration agreed with a group of senators, led by Mark Warner
of Virginia, who argued that having your insurance plan canceled counted” as an unexpected human-caused event.

The White House estimates that only 500,000 people who had their plans canceled because of Obamacare have not yet obtained insurance. However, insurance companies “worry the White House is underestimating,” Klein reports.

In Kentucky, 48,302 of the approximately 280,000 whose plans didn’t qualify are in “grandfathered” plans that were extended in advance by insurance companies, according to the state Department of Insurance. Another 63,832 were offered transitional relief by their insurance company under President Obama‚Äôs request to states, which Kentucky approved. “The remaining had the option to take early renewal to continue current health insurance policies through at least 12-1-14,” department spokeswoman Ronda Sloan told Kentucky Health News in an email.

The move “puts the administration on some very difficult-to-defend ground,” Klein writes. “Normally, the individual mandate applies to anyone who can purchase
qualifying insurance for less than 8 percent of their income. Either
that threshold is right or it’s wrong. But it’s hard to argue that it’s
right for the currently uninsured but wrong for people whose plans were
canceled. Put more simply, Republicans will immediately begin calling for
the uninsured to get this same exemption. What will the Obama
administration say in response? Why are people who plans were canceled
more deserving of help than people who couldn’t afford a plan in the
first place?” (Read more)

“Catastrophic plans generally have lower premiums than other plans but
offer more limited benefits,” writes Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal. “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.”

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