Washington Update

Affordable Care Act: Implementation Update

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As the deadline to sign up for health insurance coverage through the new federal and state marketplaces neared on March 31, a surge in enrollments carried the number of purchasers over the 6 million mark—inching closer to the Obama Administration’s initial target of 7 million. The tendency of people to procrastinate until faced with a deadline, along with an intense media campaign featuring the president himself, likely fueled the sudden increase in enrollments.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would extend the March 31 deadline for signing up for health care for those who encountered trouble completing enrollment. The “special enrollment period” is intended to target people who began the enrollment process before the deadline but encountered technical problems or had complicated family situations.

Earlier in the month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) adjusted coverage rules for existing health insurance policies that do not meet the robust standards for coverage set by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The agency permitted a transitional policy, allowing individuals with sub-standard coverage to retain their current health plans through 2016 without tax penalty. Under this transitional policy, states ultimately choose whether or not to permit insurance companies to issue plans that fall short of the ACA guidelines.
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