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Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

White House Still Trying to Ease Obamacare Issues

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"With only weeks to go before coverage begins, continued changes to the rules and guidance could exacerbate the challenges associated with helping consumers through the enrollment process," said AHIP CEO Karen Ignagni.

Earlier this month, the administration extended the signup deadline to Dec. 23 for coverage that takes effect Jan. 1 through the federal exchange, which is handling enrollment in 36 states. The deadline previously had been Dec. 15.

The high-risk pool, or PCIP, program, was supposed to end Dec. 31 because insurers will no longer be able to reject people or charge them higher rates as a result of their medical history. But many PCIP members around the country have had trouble enrolling in new coverage due to the troubled launch of healthcare.gov and other state online exchanges. Here is a state-by-state breakdown of enrollment as of last June.

Some states that run their own pools are also considering extending their programs.

Consumer advocacy groups hailed the federal decision.

"Extending the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan will give tens of thousands of people with a history of cancer or another serious disease the security of knowing they will not face a costly gap in coverage on Jan. 1, if they cannot enroll in a marketplace plan by Dec. 23,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network President Chris Hansen.

Hansen said that those with chronic diseases must carefully weigh their choice of plans, looking not just at premiums and other out-of-pocket costs, but also at prescription drug coverage and financial assistance options.

“Extending coverage under PCIP gives patients valuable additional time to select the marketplace plan that best meets their unique needs,” Hansen said.

The PCIP program has helped more than 135,000 Americans since it began in late 2010. The federal program suspended acceptance of new enrollees in mid-February, while state-based pools closed their doors on March 2 because of funding concerns.

More than $4.7 billion has been spent of the $5 billion that Congress appropriated for PCIP, but there is enough money to extend coverage through January, officials said. Still, they are encouraging enrollees to sign up for new coverage as soon as they can.

Thu, Dec 12 2013

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