Key Consumer Protection In Obamacare Delayed

By: CBS NEWS (Posted by Josh Mabry)
By: CBS NEWS (Posted by Josh Mabry)

The Obama administration has quietly delayed another key element of the Affordable Care Act, the New York Times reported Tuesday, exempting some insurers for a year from the new limit on out-of-pocket expenses.

The Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, explicitly set annual limits -- $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for a family -- on out-of-pocket expenses. Mr. Obama touted the reform as one of the many consumer protections his sweeping health care law would include to make insurance more affordable.

Now, however, some insurers won't have to follow the limits until 2015, giving them more time to adjust their computer processing systems to the new requirements. The Times notes that the exemption has been posted on the Labor Department's website since February "in a maze of legal and bureaucratic language that went largely unnoticed." Indeed, the Labor Department site acknowledges that some health "plans may utilize multiple service providers to help administer benefits," suggesting they need more time to comply.

The limit on out-of-pocket expenses was a huge selling point for patients suffering from conditions with costly treatments, including cancer or Multiple Sclerosis.

"The promise of out-of-pocket limits was one of the main reasons we supported health care reform," Theodore M. Thompson, a vice president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, told the Times. "So we are disappointed that some plans will be allowed to have multiple out-of-pocket limits in 2014."

This is not the first setback in the health care law's implementation -- earlier this year, the administration announced it is delaying the mandate requiring businesses with more than 50 employees to offer their workers insurance.

The delays have fueled conservatives' concerns about the law's design, and Republicans have become more vocal about stopping the law's implementation before some of the biggest of the law go into effect next year.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), arguing that the government should delay the opening of the state-based health care exchanges that are supposed to be ready for open enrollment this October. McConnell's letter was in response to a Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General's report produced last week, which indicated that HHS has not proven that the online exchanges will be able to secure consumers' personal data.

"While I have grave concerns about this law under any circumstance, Americans should not be forced into the exchanges, and certainly not without these assurances" McConnell wrote. "If you rush to go forward without adequate safeguards in place, any theft of personal information from constituents will be the result of your rush to implement a law to meet the agency's political needs and not the operational needs of the people it is supposed to serve."

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