White House Considering Health Insurance Extension

Friday, 07 Feb 2014 02:10 PM

By Lisa Barron

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The Obama administration is looking at extending the president's move to allow individuals to keep their health insurance plans even if they do not meet the requirements of the healthcare law.

Officials are discussing the possibility of allowing consumers to keep their coverage beyond the initial one-year extension and possibly for as long as an addition three years, the Associated Press reports.

"We are continuing to examine all sorts of ways to provide consumers with more choices and to smooth the transition as we implement the law," Health and Human Services spokesman Joanne Peters told the AP Thursday.

Insurance and consulting executives have acknowledged that an extension is on the table.

"The administration is entertaining a range of options to ensure that this individual market has stability to it, and that would be one thing that they could do," Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health, told AP.

Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini reportedly told analysts during a conference call Thursday that he had heard the plans might be extended.

The wave of policy cancellation notices received by some 4.7 million individuals was a blow to Obama's promise that customers who liked their plans could keep them and outraged consumers who faced higher premiums with the new exchange-based coverage, forcing the administration to backtrack.

The potential new extension apparently has the same aim of tempering stories of rate shock under Obamacare, reports Breitbart. Insurers are set to announce rates for 2015 in May, and they may lean towards higher increases to offset any losses from a potentially high risk pool given enrollment statistics so far.

"A significant rate increase in May would be another serious political hit for Democrats in this year's midterm elections," wrote columnist John Sexton. "In addition, the bad publicity would make it more difficult for the Obama administration to lure in the 'young invincibles' needed to balance the risk pool going forward."

"So for both political and policy reasons, the administration wants to do what it can to keep rates stable," he added.

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