Administration announces new ObamaCare exemption

Published December 19, 2013

FoxNews.com

The Obama administration, in an 11th-hour change just before the holiday break,announced a major exemption in ObamaCare that will let people who lost coverage and are struggling to get a new plan sign up for bare-bones policies.

The move Thursday to allow potentially hundreds of thousands of people to sign up for “catastrophic” coverage plans was blasted by the insurance industry as a shift that would cause “tremendous instability.”

The administration downplayed the sudden change, saying they expected it to impact fewer than 500,000 people.

Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters said, “This is a common sense clarification of the law. For the limited number of consumers whose plans have been cancelled and are seeking coverage, this is one more option.”

An administration official confirmed to Fox News that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to Capitol Hill saying the administration was expanding the definition of catastrophic plans to deal with people who have not been able to get a new plan.

An insurance industry official, speaking not for attribution, told Fox that while the administration was playing down the significance of the move, it could turn out to be a troublesome last minute change and the industry fears far more than the 500,000 people will apply.

Another industry official, Robert Zirkelbach AHIP Spokesman Vice President, Strategic Communications, said, “This type of last-minute change will cause tremendous instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., described the move as “another major policy shift” from the Obama administration.

“We asked Secretary Sebelius point blank what would be the next holiday surprise, and she was silent. Yet, here we are with another major policy shift. The sad reality is that when the law takes effect come January 1, more Americans will be without coverage under Obamacare than one year ago,” Blackburn said in a statement released Thursday evening.

“Less than two weeks from going live, the White House seems to be in full panic mode. Rather than more White House delays, waivers, and exemptions, the administration should provide all Americans relief from its failed law.” 

Fox News Ed Henry contributed to this report

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