HHS to stop accepting new Obamacare waiver requests in September 

As part of a Friday afternoon news dump, the Department of Health and Human Services informed Capitol Hill staffers today that they would not consider any requests for waivers from the national health care law after Sept. 22, but until then would allow groups to apply for waivers through the end of 2013, right before the new insurance exchanges are created.

The Obama administration has now granted more than 1,300 waivers to unions, businesses, states, and other groups that would have to drop limited medical insurance plans as a result of restrictive new regulations. The waivers were originally only supposed to last a year, but now groups will be able to extend them through 2013.

HHS also released an updated list of waiver applications that have been approved and denied.

Here's the notification that HHS sent to Hill staffers:

U.S. House and Senate Notification

Friday, June 17, 2011

 To:      Congressional Health Staff

 From:  Amy Hall

Director, Office of Legislation

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

 Re:      New Annual Limits Waiver Guidance and Data

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance to allow limited benefit plans to apply for or renew a temporary waiver from annual limit restrictions through 2013.  In 2014, annual limits for new health plans will be banned as high-quality, affordable, and comprehensive health insurance plans are made available through Health Insurance Exchanges.  Until then, annual limits are gradually phased out in order to preserve access to needed benefits and the affordability of coverage.  CMS has granted temporary waivers from the annual limits provision of the law for plans that demonstrate that compliance with the gradual phase-out of limits would result in a significant decrease in access to benefits or a significant increase in premiums. 

CMS announced today that, after September 22, 2011, no new applications or requests for extensions will be considered. 

Today’s guidance imposes new, more stringent disclosure requirements and requires health plans with waivers to tell consumers that their health care coverage is subject to an annual dollar limit lower than what is allowed under the law.  Insurers also must include the dollar amount of the annual limit along with a description of the plan benefits to which the limit applies.  Plans also must show how the annual limit would affect a consumer who was hospitalized to help people understand how far their coverage will reach if they become seriously ill.  Finally, plans with waivers must attest annually to their compliance with the consumer disclosure requirement.

In addition, CMS today released updated lists of insurance plans whose applications for a waiver have been approved or denied.  That information is available by city and state at cciio.cms.gov/resources/files/approved_applications_for_waiver.html.

For more information about how the Affordable Care Act is helping protect consumers by phasing out annual limits, visit www.HealthCare.gov/law/provisions/limits/limits.html.  For more information about today’s announcement, visit www.HealthCare.gov/news/factsheets/annuallimit06172011a.html.

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