Federal Officials Grant Exceptions From Reform Law for Smaller Plans
The Obama administration increasingly is issuing waivers for provisions in the federal health reform law to prevent insurers and employers from dropping coverage, while also pledging to modify other rules so current policies meet new reform standards, the New York Times reports.
Federal officials have granted 111 waivers to employers, insurers and union plans that cover about 1.2 million U.S. residents.
HHS has granted numerous one-year waivers to companies that provide employees with low-cost health plans, also known as mini-med plans.
Last week, HHS issued further guidance and said it will use a different method of calculating spending for mini-med plans so they can adhere to medical-loss ratio rules under the reform law.
Critics have argued that offering various concessions to overhaul measures weakens the law. According to the Times, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who supported strict MLR rules, plans to hold a hearing on the new spending calculations for mini-med plans.
However, federal officials have defended the actions, saying that they are responding to concerns from businesses who say some workers have no other option for coverage. Steve Larsen -- director of oversight in HHS' Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight -- said that until state health insurance exchanges open under the law in 2014, "the annual waiver process preserves limited-benefit plans offered by employers, preventing significant premium increase or loss of access" (Abelson, New York Times, 11/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.