The federal government is giving low-value health insurance plans two more years to meet some of the health care reform law’s rules. But they must apply by September 22 to qualify, the Health and Human Services Department announced on Friday.
The Obama administration has taken heat from Republicans for granting waivers to insurance plans known as “mini-meds,” which contain fewer benefits than the average insurance plan and are generally offered to workers in high-turnover jobs, such as those at fast-food restaurants. With a waiver, mini-med plans don’t have to meet the 2010 health law’s requirement that plans offer $750,000 worth of benefits this year.
Republicans have accused the administration of playing favorites in granting waivers to certain plans, but the Government Accountability Office said earlier this week that it found no signs of wrongdoing.
“The good news is, these plans will be a thing of the past by 2014. But today, they are the only option for some employers and consumers,” Steve Larsen, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ insurance-regulation office, said in a conference call with reporters.
When state insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014, the government thinks that workers who have mini-med plans will be able to get better coverage on the exchange.
Larsen said that about 2 percent of the private insurance market had waivers. He said CMS does not believe that plans that meet the $750,000 coverage requirement would see a significant premium increase when the requirement increases to $2 million next year.
“We don’t expect premium impact at $750,000 and above to be significant … but we’re allowing them the opportunity to come in and make the case,” Larsen said.
Any plan that currently has a waiver must apply by September 22 to extend the exemption through 2013. New plans seeking waivers must meet the same deadline.