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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

White House Still Trying to Ease Obamacare Issues

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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.

Consumers generally must enroll in policies in the new online marketplaces by Dec. 23 to have insurance that takes effect Jan. 1. Enrollment in the marketplaces continues through March 31, although some think it could be extended beyond that because so many people had difficulties using the website.

CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration is continuing to look at ways to make the enrollment process easier for all consumers, including those in the high-risk pools.

“As part of our efforts to smooth the transition to the marketplaces for those seeking coverage that begins in January, we are taking steps to ensure that Americans enrolled in the federal PCIP insurance plan will not face a lapse when the new year begins,” he said.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Thu, Dec 12 2013

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