Another Obamacare rule eased before deadline

A health care reform specialist helps people select insurance plans at the free Affordable Care Act (ACA) Enrollment Fair at Pasadena City College on November 19, 2013 in Pasadena, California. The event, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Association of Health Underwriters, offers one-on-one sessions with insurance experts certified by Covered California to help people enroll for healthcare coverage under the ACA.

The White House has announced that it will let some of the 5 or 6 million people who lost their health insurance because of federal requirements, enroll in so-called catastrophic health care plans.

Catastrophic plans are very bare bones. The deductible is more than $6,000. They only allow three primary care visits a year. To get one, you used to have to be under 30 years old, or demonstrate financial hardship.

“It’s a patch obviously,” says JB Silvers, who teaches health care finance at Case Western Reserve University. “From the insurance companies’ point of view, it’s a terrible idea. They set their rates on the basis of who they think is going to enroll which is basically under-30s who aren’t going to use health care very much.”

But while most people who lost old plans will be able to buy in to one of the mainstream federal plans -- bronze, silver, or gold -- the Obama administration doesn’t want anyone falling through the cracks, says Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health, a healthcare advisory firm.

“At the end of the day, they’re going to be judged on the number of people who are enrolled and everything is calibrated to facilitate that goal.”

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.


I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...