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Feds try to smooth health care transition

Friday, December 13, 2013

Associated Press


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.

Some of the measures are binding, such as requiring insurers to provide coverage Jan. 1 for any customer who pays by New Year’s Eve. Others are recommendations, such as urging insurers to let customers temporarily keep filling prescriptions covered by a previous plan.

The steps are the policy counterpart to the technical repairs that finally got the website working reasonably well. They’re intended to help make sure anyone who needs and wants coverage by Jan. 1 can get it, even if they got trapped by website woes. That includes some of the more than 4 million people whose existing individual health plans have been canceled because the plans didn’t meet the new law’s requirements.

“That is, frankly, the big question right now,” said Larry Levitt, an insurance market expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “Can the system handle signing up everyone who wants coverage by Jan. 1? I’d say the highest priority is avoiding a gap in coverage for people who are already insured.”