(Bloomberg) — With mid-term elections bearing down, the government changed its regulation of Obamacare to give consumers and states more flexibility to decide on their health plans, insurers more time to sign up customers and taxpayers a chance to avoid more costs.
The changes, announced Wednesday by the Health and Human Services Department and the Treasury Department, are designed to smooth enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as it moves into everyday use.
Americans with health coverage that pre-dates Obamacare can stay on their plans for two more years, insurers will have an extra month to sign up customers next winter, and states get more time to decide whether to manage the law themselves, the officials said. Also, a program aimed at covering financial losses for insurers will be adjusted to help ensure it doesn’t cost taxpayers, the Obama administration said.
“These policies implement the health care law in a common-sense way by continuing to smooth the transition for consumers and stakeholders and fixing problems wherever the law provides flexibility,” Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. health secretary, said in a statement.
About 4 million people have enrolled in new health plans offered through insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, while between 500,000 and 1.5 million people remain in plans that don’t comply with the law, according to the Congressional Budget office.
An estimated 2.5 million people received letters last fall from insurers saying their non-compliant plans would be canceled, triggering a political firestorm for President Barack Obama, who had repeatedly promised that people with plans they like wouldn’t have to change them because of the health law.