In the face of last year’s massive discontent over cancelled plans, President Obama announced in November that insurers would have the option of extending plans that didn’t meet ACA requirements until October 2014. The WaPo is now reporting that the Obama Administration is gearing up to announce yet another extension:
The decision has become an open secret in insurance and health policy circles. And it marks the second time in four months that administration officials have adjusted their rules about health plans that do not include benefits required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.Obama’s health-care aides will announce that these old policies may continue longer — perhaps one to three more years.As word of the second extension circulated, White House aides and Health and Human Services Department officials declined to confirm it. HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters pointed out that when the president announced the first extension, health officials had said they would consider further extending the ability to renew old plans beyond this year.
If this extension does go through, it’s likely to increase the popularity of the law in the short-term. Patients will be spared the shock of new (possibly more expensive) premiums and the narrower networks that go with ACA coverage for another one to three years. According to some polls, public tolerance of the ACA is already rising. And by other metrics, Democrats are jumping ship in advance of the midterms.Obama’s actions here, then, are an attempt to spread out the political reckoning over time. He wants to put off the worst parts of the ACA consumer experience until the law is more thoroughly entrenched.There is a catch, however. When the first extension was announced, insurers expressed serious concerns about the disruption it would cause. They had already set premiums and planned for the coming year on the assumption that people would be switching plans. Changing that at the last minute threw them into chaos and threatened the integrity of the exchanges.While this second extension seems more planned than the first, it could still lead to the same problems. But for the administration, the long-term stability of the law is apparently less important than making it through the midterms with the Democratic majority in the Senate intact. Update: This extension has now been verified. It will be for two years, right in the middle of the range mentioned above.