- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2013

A group of Democratic senators are taking heart in signals by the Obama administration Thursday that people who lost their existing health plans because of Obamacare’s requirements will be eligible for an exemption that lets them purchase a catastrophic plan.

“I agree with you that these consumers should qualify for this temporary hardship exemption, and I can assure you that the exemption will be available to them,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a letter to the six senators.

Although it is unclear how the mechanics of the exemption will work, the response to the Democrats’ concerns addressed fears that people who lost coverage due to Obamacare will go without coverage if they do not find an alternative on state-based markets by Monday — the deadline to have coverage by the new year.

Obamacare’s requirements that all health plans had to provide a range of services contributed to many of these policy cancellations. But for weeks, the administration and the law’s outside defenders have derided such plans as sub-par junk and said consumers would be better off with their Obamacare-compliant policies.

The initial concerns were raised by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Angus King of Maine, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia.

Each of the senators represents a state that is served by HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange system that experience widespread web glitches upon its Oct. 1 debut.

SEE ALSO: Latest Obamacare delay faces swift GOP criticism

The Obama administration has said the website is working much better as of the start of this month.

“We are pleased that the Administration appears to have responded to the concerns we’ve raised,” the senators said. “As a result, this clarifies an option that will help those consumers who have had their plans cancelled this year transition more smoothly into the marketplace. We will closely monitor how the Administration implements this option, and we remain committed to proposing responsible solutions.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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