People who had their current health insurance cancelled because the plans did not meet Affordable Care Act requirements would be granted an exemption from penalties for the next year. The embattled Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the change Thursday night in a letter to a handful of senators.
According to a bulletin issued by HHS, "If you have been notified that your individual market policy will not be renewed, you will be eligible for a hardship exemption and will be able to enroll in catastrophic coverage." The announcement comes just four days before the deadline, Dec. 23, for people to buy policies that take effect at the start of the new year.
The Obama administration has come under intense criticism over the past few months as the president's promise that if people liked their currently plan, they would be able to keep it regardless has not been entirely true. According to the Obama administration:
If the consumer believes that the plan options available in the marketplace in their area are more expensive than their canceled health insurance policy, they will be eligible for catastrophic coverage through a hardship exemption.
Insurance spokespeople speaking to the press said that the last-minute change would cause problems for insurance companies. Insurers had not expected many over 30 to enroll in catastrophic plans, and so had not factored their cost into premiums, and secondly, they said that the exemptions undermine the individual mandate required to keep healthcare costs down overall.
Republicans were quick to seize on another opportunity to criticize the bungled rollout. Senator Marco Rubio said that, "This is a slap in the face to the thousands of Americans who have already purchased expensive insurance through the Obamacare exchanges.”