Obamacare rules tweaked amid complaints about plan flexibility

CBS

To address concerns among some Obamacare enrollees who lost access to their old doctors or found themselves unable to add a new dependent or spouse, President Obama’s administration has tweaked the law’s regulations to provide added flexibility for consumers, CBS News confirms.

“We are committed to ensuring that consumers have continuity of coverage if they experience a life circumstance such as a birth of a new child or a marriage,” explained Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters. “As of this week, consumers are able to report these life events and change or update their coverage directly through the Marketplace. We continue to work closely with issuers to ensure that consumers are able to use this new functionality make changes to their coverage.”

The change, which was unveiled in a memo distributed on Thursday to participating insurers, was first reported by the Washington Post.

Under the new rules, consumers who have already enrolled in a plan may switch to a different plan before the open enrollment period closes at the end of March, provided they stay with the same insurer and opt for roughly the same level of coverage.

The administration also rolled out a new “Report a Life Change” feature on healthcare.gov, the website that governs the federal insurance exchange for 36 states. The new feature will allow consumers to adjust their plans in accordance with changing circumstances like a new baby, a marriage, a relocation, or another life event.

 The adjustment, which marks the first major alteration of Obamacare’s rules since coverage began taking effect on Jan. 1, was likely prompted by frustration among some consumers about the difficulty of altering their insurance plans to accommodate new realities or ensure continued access to a doctor of their choice.

Stories of people losing access to their old doctor under a new insurance plan had emerged as a central complaint among opponents of the law, who’d warned for months about the disruption it would cause in America’s health insurance market.

To address this concern, the memo distributed by HHS explained that consumers who act before the end of March can now “move to a plan with a more inclusive provider network,” according to the Washington Post.

Figures provided by the federal government show that about 3 million Americans had enrolled in health plans under the Affordable Care Act by the end of January, though it is unclear how many of those enrollees had actually cemented their coverage by paying their first insurance premium.

  • Jake Miller

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