The Obama administration has delayed another key target of the president’s signature legislation by putting off the cap on out of pocket expenses for a year.
As various deadlines for implementation of the law approached, Democrats and administration officials continually reassured the American people that there was no need to worry and the law was on track to meet its deadlines. However, despite these reassurances officials have had to either cancel or postpone several key provisions of the law.
The first delay involved Obama’s Medicare cuts until after the election, and then came the delay by the administration of the employer mandate, despite the law clearly stating it must take effect on January 1 of next year. Following these two delays came another announcement that was buried in the Federal Register noting that the government would delay enforcement of a number of the enforcement provisions for verifying eligibility for the health insurance subsidies contained in the law, choosing instead to rely on the “honor system.”
The Congressional Research Service has reported that as of November 2011, the Obama administration had missed up to one-third of its deadlines that were specified in the law.
The latest delay is especially significant because it strikes at one of the key provisions to help reduce healthcare costs. When the law was passed along strictly party lines it contained a massive amount of mandates and regulations that would ultimately make health insurance more costly to provide. One of these provisions caps out of pocket insurance costs including co-pays and deductibles. Another provision prohibits insurance companies from establishing lifetime limits on the amount of coverage. Beginning in 2014, deductibles are capped at $2,000 per year for individuals and $4,000 per year for families.
Additionally, the law limits out of pocket costs in 2014 to $6,350 for individual policies and $12,700 for family policies. However, in February the Department of Labor published an obscure rule that delayed the cap until 2015.
The New York Times reported that the reason for the delay, according to federal officials, was to give employers and insurers more time to comply with the caps because they needed more time to align their computer systems to be able to talk with each other.
Groups advocating on behalf of patients with chronic illnesses were dismayed at the decision to delay the caps.
The government’s unexpected interpretation of the law will disproportionately harm people with complex chronic conditions and disabilities,” Myrl Weinberg, the chief executive of the National Health Council, which speaks for more than 50 groups representing patients, said.
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