Republican lawmakers are hitting back at the Obama administration’s decision late Thursday to let Americans claim a hardship exemption and buy catastrophic coverage if they cannot afford a regular health plan on one of Obamacare’s health exchanges.
“The Administration is recognizing the grim reality that more Americans have lost health insurance than gained it under Obamacare,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said. “Holding a fire sale of cheap insurance is not a responsible fix for a broken program. This is a slap in the face to the thousands of Americans who have already purchased expensive insurance through the ObamaCare exchanges.”
The decision is the latest in a string of changes or delays to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, as the White House scrambles to make sure that people who lost barebones plans because of the law’s coverage requirements do not face a coverage gap in the new year. Last month, President Obama said insurance commissioners and insurers should allow Americans to renew these plans for one year, even if they do not comply with Obamacare’s coverage standards.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius let six Democratic senators know about the new move late Thursday, after the lawmakers expressed concern about constituents who were losing coverage.
Allowing people to once again buy barebones coverage, after President Obama and top officials said these plans were substandard, set off skepticism among the insurance industry.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group, said the latest rule change “could cause significant instability in marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers.”
Republican critics said the Obama administration was shifting the goal posts once more.
“We asked Secretary Sebelius point-blank what would be the next holiday surprise, and she was silent,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican and vice chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “Yet, here we are with another major policy shift … Less than two weeks from going live, the White House seems to be in full panic mode.”