Ahead of the Dec. 23 deadline, President Barack Obama has lifted the individual mandate for Americans whose insurance plans were canceled this year because they did not meet the standards under by the Affordable Care Act.
These individuals can now apply for a hardship exemption that will allow them to ignore the individual mandate or buy a bare-bones policy with only catastrophic coverage instead, according to the Washington Post.
The exemption was created for people who "experienced financial or domestic circumstances, including an unexpected natural or human-caused event, such that he or she had a significant, unexpected increase in essential expenses that prevented him or her from obtaining coverage under a qualified health plan," according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., argued that having an insurance plan suddenly canceled is "an unexpected natural or human-caused event" that should be covered under the hardship exemption. The administration agreed.
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The GOP estimated 5 million Americans have had their policy canceled.
The first cracks in the individual mandate now showing, the Post says its only a matter of time before Republicans say that the uninsured should also be eligible for the exemption.
Insurance companies are worried about the change.
"This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers," says Karen Ignani, head of the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans.
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Selling bare bones coverage instead of comprehensive policies could drive up the cost for everyone in the marketplace.