Another Holiday, Another Obamacare Change
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Health Care Edge is taking a break for the holidays. It will return Jan. 6.
TODAY IN ONE PARAGRAPH: The pre-holiday Obamacare news dump has arrived. HHS said Thursday evening that individuals who had their insurance plans cancelled under the health care law will qualify for the "hardship exemption," meaning those consumers will not be subject to the individual mandate penalty in 2014 if they choose to forgo coverage. They will also be allowed to purchase "catastrophic" plans, which offer more limited benefits for a lower premium, and are normally reserved for individuals below 30 years of age. The administration says there are fewer than 500,000 people who received cancellations and have not found new coverage, and is confident most will not use the new option, since they purchased insurance on the private market previously. Yet the announcement has insurers concerned and puts the administration in sticky territory, as it's tough to defend why those with cancelled plans should get an exemption, while the previously uninsured should not--an argument Republicans are sure to point out. Consumers have just a few days to make their decision before the Dec. 23 deadline to enroll in coverage beginning Jan. 1.
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CATASTROPHIC. "The move could worry insurers because the typical person buying a catastrophic plan is healthy and expects to incur few medical expenses in the coming year. Insurers would prefer that those people purchase a pricier policy on the new exchanges, where they would balance the risk of those with illnesses." (Louise Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal)
LAST MINUTE OBAMACARE SITE ENROLLMENT A TOUGH SELL. "Many people thwarted by the technical problems of HealthCare.gov are reluctant to try again, citing frustration with the federal site, web-security concerns and the pressure of the holidays, several insurers say." (Timothy W. Martin and Christopher Weaver, The Wall Street Journal)
EXPECT TO PAY MORE FOR EMPLOYER-SPONSORED COVERAGE NEXT YEAR. Some blame Obamacare for the changes, but benefit experts say the law is mainly accelerating existing trends. (Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News)
TIS THE SEASON FOR HEALTH AND TAXES. Tax firms are offering health insurance checkups. (Paige Winfield Cunningham, Politico)
DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE 'DEATH SPIRAL.' New briefings indicate the problem is not likely for Obamacare, even if fewer young people enroll than anticipated. (Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic)
THE 'DEATH SPIRAL' IS ABOUT THE STATES. "In reality, there are 51 different risk pools (for each state plus the District of Columbia), which means 51 chances to get things right, as well as 51 possible death spirals." (Philip Klein, Washington Examiner)
WHITE HOUSE ACCUSES GOP OF TRYING TO 'STRIP' HEALTH COVERAGE. The administration released state-by-state fact sheets outlining the law's benefits. (Clara Ritger, National Journal)
MAPPING UNINSURED AMERICANS. A graphic of Dec. 17 census data showing where the uninsured live. (Matthew Bloch, Matthew Ericson and Tom Giratikanon, New York Times)
AFTER EXPOSURE, SECURITY HOLES SEALED IN MINNESOTA'S HEALTH EXCHANGE. MNsure's flaw allowed private data to be transmitted unencrypted, but it has since been fixed. (Elizabeth Stawicki, Minnesota Public Radio)
WASHINGTON EXCHANGE ELIMINATES PAPER APPLICATION BACKLOG. Washington's state-based exchange, Healthplanfinder, has received over 20,000 paper applications to date, all of which have now been processed. (Amy Snow Landa, Seattle Times)
SCHUMER: OBAMACARE WON'T BE FOCUS OF 2014 ELECTIONS. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., says unemployment insurance will be first on the Senate's 2014 to-do list. (Ed O'Keefe, Washington Post)
NYC EXTENDS SMOKING BAN TO E-CIGARETTES. "The measure was pushed by outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg and backed by public health advocates in the city. It comes just weeks after New York became the first major city to raise the age for buying tobacco to 21." (Scott Neuman, National Public Radio)
FDA TO REVISE FOOD SAFETY OVERHAUL. The agency will re-propose draft regulations, required by the Food Safety Modernization Act, to overhaul the U.S. food safety system. (Ben Goad, The Hill)
DEMOCRATIC SUPPORT FOR OBAMACARE SPIKES. While the overall split has remained largely unchanged since Nov., support for the health law among Democrats has risen to 68 percent, up from 55 percent last month, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Friday. (Jonathan Easley, The Hill)
AMERICANS FAVOR AGE RESTRICTIONS ON MORNING-AFTER PILL. Two-thirds of respondents to an NPR poll said they believe parents should have to give permission to anyone under age 18 for the morning after pill. (Scott Hensley, National Public Radio)
SENATE LEAVES FOR RECESS. The Senate will finish up the year today, after agreeing to delay the final vote to confirm Janet Yellen as Fed Chair until Jan. 6, avoiding a weekend session before the holidays.