KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Feds Announce Steps To Avoid Coverage Lapses

The Obama administration announced Thursday a series of actions -- including giving consumers more time to pay their premiums and a one-month extension of a high-risk insurance program -- to help prevent lapses in insurance coverage as key parts of the health law kick in Jan. 1.

The Associated Press: Feds Try To Smooth Bumpy Health Care Transition
Anticipating more health care disruptions, the Obama administration Thursday announced a batch of measures intended to help consumers avoid lapses in their care and coverage as the president’s overhaul takes effect in January. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also announced a one-month extension of a special insurance program created by the law for people who cannot get coverage because of health problems. Scheduled to expire at the end of the year, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will remain in place through January (Alonso-Zaldivar, 12/12). 

Politico: Health And Human Services Addresses Fear Of Jan. 1 Health Coverage Gap
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the moves will give consumers "more peace of mind and even more confidence that it [insurance] will be there when they want and need it." She took part briefly in a press call but took no questions. The administration has faced a crisis as millions of people have learned that their current health insurance plan is being cancelled, while problems with and some of the state exchanges have made enrollment difficult. The signup system is better now but still imperfect and it's an open question whether everyone who needs to sign up this year will be able to do so. Republicans have said more people might lose coverage under Obamacare than gain it, at least in the early months (Norman, 12/12).

Politico: Obamacare: One Punt After Another
Why do Republicans even bother trying to delay Obamacare? President Barack Obama's doing it all by himself. On Thursday, the Obama administration gave customers permission to pay their premiums as late as Dec. 31 for coverage that starts Jan. 1, and officially gave customers an extra week — until Dec. 23 — to sign up for January coverage. The move was just the latest in a long list of extensions, delays and punts that have plagued the health care law (Nather and Kenen, 12/12).

The New York Times: Health Plans Urged To Extend Enrollment
With many Americans still foiled in their efforts to buy insurance under the new health care law, the Obama administration moved Thursday to give them more time to sign up and pay premiums, and it extended a program for people with cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses (Pear, 12/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Insurers Told To Ease Coverage Rules
The government on Thursday announced steps to stave off unpleasant surprises for Americans when the health-overhaul law fully kicks in Jan. 1, including measures to ensure continuous care for people with serious medical conditions. The moves include a one-month extension of a federal insurance program for certain chronically ill people. The Obama administration also asked insurers to take a flexible approach about their rules when patients refill prescriptions or see their existing doctor in the early days of the new year in case new health plans haven't kicked in (Radnofsky, 12/11).

McClatchy: Administration Relaxes Some Health Care Rules, Asks Insurers To Be Flexible
In yet another acknowledgment of the difficulties Americans have faced purchasing coverage through the website, the Obama administration on Thursday announced that it would grant a one-month extension for a transitional federal program that provides health coverage to people with serious illnesses. In addition, the administration has put forward a handful of new requirements and recommendations for marketplace insurers to make it easier for people to get coverage that begins on Jan. 1. As the administration tries to overcome the disastrous rollout of the website, the new proposals and requirements could add further confusion to an already complex potpourri of deadlines, mandates and recommendations surrounding the controversial health care law (Pugh, 12/12).

USA Today: Insurance Files From Feds Not Quite There Yet
The mixed news comes as insurers, regulators and consumers rush to meet a Dec. 23 deadline for people to sign up for insurance on the federal site if they want policies that take effect Jan. 1. The Department of Health and Human Services said today that it is encouraging insurers to allow consumers to pay premiums late, to cover prescriptions filled after plans expire and to let people with urgent health needs use doctors who may not be on their new health plan during the transition to new plans. Aetna said it would give people until Jan. 8 to send premiums (O’Donnell, 12/12). 

NPR: A Rush To Reconcile Health Enrollment Data, By Hand
With just a few weeks left before a deadline to get health coverage, lingering bugs lurk in the part of that you can't see. And since time is running out to get things right, health officials on Thursday urged insurance companies to cover some enrollees even if their premium checks haven't come in. Under the law's guidelines, consumers have to sign up for a health insurance exchange -- and pay their first month's premium -- by the end of December if they want coverage in January (Hu, 12/12).

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