In a move that could help Democrats avoid a repeat of last
autumn's public outcry over canceled health policies, administration
officials are expected to announce the change within the next few
days, according to the sources.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the
administration has considered a number of alternatives and could opt
to allow renewals of up to three years, which could postpone a new
round of cancellations until after the 2016 presidential election.
The administration on Tuesday said it had nothing to announce.
But an official indicated that policy "final guidance" on the issue
would come soon.
"The administration has committed to doing all we can to smooth the
transition for hard-working Americans. We've taken steps already and
are continuing to look at options," said Joanne Peters, a
spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The possibility of a new administration directive was first reported
by the congressional newspaper, The Hill.
Obama and his Democratic allies were rocked last autumn by a
political uproar over millions of people who received cancellation
notices from their insurers because their plans did not meet
consumer safeguards, including minimum benefit requirements set by
Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The administration responded in November by saying it would not
enforce the law's provisions for those who received notices. That
gave state insurance regulators, insurers and consumers the option
to renew noncompliant plans for a year.
At the time, the administration said HHS said it would consider
extending the option for Americans to renew old plans beyond this
[to top of second column]
"We will provide final guidance on this issue soon," Peters said.
Insurance regulators in at least 23 states have allowed renewals to
go through. Other states have required consumers to buy new policies
that comply with the healthcare law.
The outcry over cancellations has become a top campaign issue for
Republicans who hope to persuade voters that Obama's healthcare law
is bad for the nation and that Democrats should be punished at the
ballot box for supporting it.
Without an extension, analysts say a new round of cancellation
notices is likely to begin this October, just weeks before the poll.
But a longer extension would also exacerbate insurer concerns about
the risk pool for new online health insurance marketplaces that have
been set up in all 50 states under Obamacare.
More than 4 million people have signed up for coverage so far
through the marketplaces. Open enrollment is scheduled to close
March 31. The marketplaces need younger, healthier beneficiaries to
compensate for the costlier prospect of insuring people who are
older or sick.
Analysts believe the current extension has already encouraged large
numbers of healthier people to remain outside the marketplaces.
(Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Jan Paschal)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.