The Obama administration said Wednesday that insurers can wait until 2016 before canceling plans that don’t comply with Obamacare.
The administration released a host of final regulations that, among other things, ease reporting requirements for businesses and allow insurers to keep selling individual policies that don’t meet the law’s requirements. Those plans, which the White House first uncanceled in November, can now last until 2016 or, in some cases, 2017.
Amid an uproar from congressional Democrats, President Obama first announced in November that he would let states and insurers decide whether they wanted to uncancel plans that don’t cover everything the Affordable Care Act requires. But that one-year transition set up another round of cancellation notices for this October — just before the midterm elections.
Under the additional extension announced Wednesday, those cancellation notices will come in October 2016, although plans that offer early renewals could be extended into 2017. The administration doesn’t expect many people to be affected at that point.
Administration offiials denied any political motivation for the latest delay, though press materials about the changes specifically name-checked Democratic senators who are up for reelection this year and have pushed for Obamacare changes — including Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen, Mark Udall, and Mark Warner.
Senior administration officials estimate that about 1.5 million people are currently covered by plans that would have otherwise been canceled. That number will likely shrink even more by the time the latest extension ends, as people get employer-based insurance, become eligible for Medicare, or simply choose to buy a different policy, potentially with help from Obamacare’s new tax subsidies. So officials don’t expect to see a big, politically damaging wave of cancellation notices in 2016.
Uncanceling pre-Obamacare plans has a small but negative impact on the law’s insurance exchanges, the new marketplaces where individuals who buy insurance on their own can shop for coverage.
The people most likely to hang on to a plan that doesn’t meet all ACA requirements, rather than switching to an Obamacare-compliant policy, are typically healthy and reasonably affluent. Allowing those consumers to stay out of the exchanges carries some risk of higher premiums next year if those inside the new marketplaces are sicker than expected.
The health care law includes a built-in safety mechanism for that scenario, but the White House also announced new constraints on that program Wednesday.
The administration said it won’t allow the government to lose money on the law’s risk corridors — a program Republicans have criticized as a “bailout for insurance companies.”
In the risk-corridors program, insurers with a better-than-expected risk pool pay into a fund, and insurers with a worse-than-expected experience can draw down from that fund. Theoretically, if everyone’s experience is worse than expected, the fund wouldn’t have enough money and the government would pick up the difference. But the administration said it wouldn’t allow that to happen — the money that goes out will match the money that comes in, officials said.
The new rules also formalize a delay in next year’s open-enrollment window and extend that window by a month. Enrollment will begin Nov. 15 and run through Feb. 15. The delays push the beginning of the enrollment window — when people will get a look at their premiums — past the November midterms, and the extended window gives the administration more time to try to bring in more people.
The open-enrollment delay also gives insurers more time to figure out their rates. Without it, they would have had to set their 2015 premiums quickly after the end of the current enrollment window, meaning they might not have had a full accounting of how many young, healthy people signed up at the last minute.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."