The health insurance industry is uneasy over the Obama administration's announcement Thursday that individuals who lost existing coverage under the Affordable Care Act will not be obligated to purchase coverage by Monday.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announcement said
: "If you have been notified that your individual market policy will not be renewed, you will be eligible for a hardship exemption and will be able to enroll in [bare-bones] catastrophic coverage."
Monday, Dec. 23, is the last day to sign up through the Healthcare.Gov and state health exchanges for insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1. For the coverage to take effect, policyholders must pay their first premium directly to the insurer by Jan. 10, USA Today reported
Consumers will have until March 31 to purchase coverage for 2014 without having to pay a penalty.
The insurance industry's chief Washington lobbyist, Karen Ignagni, is concerned that exempting people from having to be in the exchanges is an erosion of the "individual mandate" requiring Americans to have health insurance.
Thursday's HHS announcement "was of particular concern because we were worried about the message with respect to individuals having a path around the mandate; that was the first time that the administration had said anything like that," Ignagni told the Journal.
The industry had opposed the Affordable Care Act when it was first proposed. After it became law in 2010, Ignagni said insurers "mobilized our best people . . . to provide thoughtful advice."
Nearly 750,000 people had visited the federal HealthCare.gov site over the weekend through Sunday afternoon.
Ignagni's task is to save the mandate and make Obamacare profitable for insurers, the Journal reported.
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