KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Who Wins And Who Loses From Latest ACA Delays?

Media outlets look at the impact of the two-year extension of nonconforming plans, as well as of other regulatory changes that will affect unions and insurers.

Marketplace: Who Foots The Bill For An Obamacare Delay?
The latest delay in the Affordable Care Act means people enrolled in plans that don't meet Obamacare's stricter coverage standards can keep them for another two years. It could create a two-tiered system, because states will get to decide whether to allow the delay, says former Senator Ben Nelson, who now heads the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. And because people in the plans that don’t comply with Obamacare tend to be healthier, not having them in the broader insurance pool means insurers have to shell out more money, and that cost will be passed to consumers. How much more? Nelson says it's too soon to pin down a figure ... (Gorenstein, 3/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Says Delays Don't Mean Health Law Was A Mistake
President Barack Obama on Thursday responded to criticism of his latest change to the Affordable Care Act, saying fixes to the program should be expected and don't amount to an implicit acknowledgment of the law's flaws. "No, No, No," Mr. Obama said when asked whether the delays and changes to the law suggest it was a mistake. "On a program like this that has so many people involved, and millions of people who are trying to find health insurance or get better health insurance, there are always going to be some smoothing out of the process" (Favole, 3/6).

The Seattle Times: Washington Won't Revive Canceled Insurance Plans 
Washington residents are not affected by President Obama’s announcement that canceled health insurance plans will be extended by an additional two years. Plans that expired at the end of 2013 will stay dead in Washington, the state’s insurance commissioner confirmed Wednesday (Stiffler, 3/6).

The CT Mirror: Latest Obamacare Tweak Could Revive CT Debate On Extending Health Plans
Thousands of Connecticut residents whose health insurance plans didn’t meet the requirements of the federal health law managed to keep their policies by renewing them in late 2013, before the new Obamacare regulations kicked in.The expectation was that they’d have to buy new, Obamacare-compliant health plans when their policies expire late this year. But now the federal government says those people could continue their noncompliant plans for another two years -- if their states and insurers allow it (Becker, 3/7).

The San Jose Mercury News: Obamacare Extension Of Nonconforming Health Plans Won't Affect Many Californians
The Obama administration's announcement Wednesday that allows a two-year extension for individual health insurance policies that don't conform to the health care law applies nationwide -- but only to states that agree to the plan, according to a spokeswoman with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In California, even if the state Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown approve the extension by changing current law, most of the 1.1 million Californians whose nonconforming plans were canceled last year wouldn't likely benefit, a state Insurance Department official said Thursday. Janice Rocco, deputy commissioner of health care policy, said there are "very few people left'' with pre-2014 policies who would be able to take advantage of Wednesday's decision because state law says that after Jan. 1, 2014, insurance plans that don't comply with the Affordable Care Act cannot be sold or renewed (Seipel, 3/6).

Kaiser Health News: What Will Obamacare Really Cost? They Might Be First To Know
Now that medical insurers must accept all applicants no matter how sick, what will these new customers cost health plans? How will they affect coverage prices for 2015 and beyond? Few questions about the Affordable Care Act are more important. How it all plays out will affect consumer pocketbooks, insurance company profits and perhaps the political fortunes of those backing the health law (Hancock, 3/7).

The size of the potential tax penalties facing consumers who go without health insurance, and how the latest regulatory changes affect unions and insurers also draw scrutiny -

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Obamacare Penalty To Exceed $95 For Many Americans
For many individuals and families, the penalty for not having health-insurance coverage will run a lot higher than the $95 figure often cited — and it could run into the five figures in some cases. That’s according to the Tax Policy Center, which has just rolled out a tax penalty calculator — the ACA Tax Penalty Calculator. The calculator helps people figure out how large their tax penalty will be if they fail to obtain required health-insurance coverage (McKinnon, 3/6).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Some Unions Get Break From Health Law’s ‘Belly Button Tax’
The slew of regulations released by the Obama administration Wednesday to implement the federal health law included confirmation that some labor unions and businesses would get a break from the law’s so-called belly button tax. Federal officials signaled in November they were planning to let some organizations that offer health insurance off paying a reinsurance fee on each person they cover, which goes into a fund to compensate insurance carriers that end up paying big medical bills now they can no longer charge riskier people more (Radnofsky, 3/6).

CQ HealthBeat: Additional Funds For Insurers Through Risk Corridors Could Cost $8 Billion
Health plans could be eligible for $8 billion in extra funds to offset unexpectedly high claims this year under regulations finalized this week, a top federal official said after speaking to an insurer trade group on Thursday. The additional funds were provided because of the problems insurers have faced this year offering coverage to individuals and small businesses through health law exchanges. The money is intended to compensate insurers who may have greater-than-expected losses, in part because President Barack Obama said consumers could continue getting coverage through insurance policies that do not meet the benefit requirements of the health care law (Adams, 3/6).

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