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Administration offers PPACA hardship exemption

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The federal government has created a new option for Americans who think President Obama has broken the promise that, “If you like your plan, you can keep it.”

The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight is aiming the fix at consumers who will be losing individual health insurance coverage because of a policy cancellation.

CCIIO — the arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in charge of HHS efforts to help roll out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — says consumers with canceled individual policies can apply for a hardship exemption from the usual PPACA exchange coverage purchase rules.

Any consumer with the hardship exemption can buy special “catastrophic” policies through a state PPACA exchange. Those people would be exempt from PPACA penalties.

Catastrophic plans offer skimpier coverage than the usual exchange bronze, silver, gold and platinum plans, but they are cheaper. Such plans normally are supposed to be available to consumers who cannot qualify for the new PPACA tax credit subsidy and cannot afford to pay the full price for exchange coverage.

A holder of a canceled individual policy can qualify for the exemption by filling out a hardship exemption form and indicating that any alternatives to the canceled policy other than a catastrophic policy appear to be unaffordable.

Consumers seeking the policy cancellation hardship exemption must provide a cancellation letter or some other evidence that a previous policy was canceled.

The Obama administration has recently announced other PPACA exchange plan timeline changes, such as a decision to postpone the federal exchange enrollment deadline to Dec. 15, then to postpone the deadline to Dec. 23, and then to make Dec. 23 the plan selection deadline and Dec. 31 the payment deadline.

Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, issued a statement objecting to the new change.

“This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” Ignagni said. 

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