—Notice of a potential delay, optional for states, in a promised feature of new health insurance markets for small businesses. The feature would allow individual employees — not the business owner — to pick their coverage from a list of plans. The health insurance exchanges for small businesses have been troubled by technical issues this year. Small Business Majority, a group that supports the health care law, said it's disappointed. The administration says no final decision has been made.
It's not clear how many people will actually be affected by the most closely watched provision of the new regulations, the two-year extension on policies that were previously subject to cancellation. The administration cites a congressional estimate of 1.5 million people, counting those in individual plans and small business policies.
About half the states have allowed insurance companies to extend canceled policies for a year under the original White House reprieve. The policies usually provided less financial protection and narrower benefits than the coverage required under the law. Nonetheless, the skimpier insurance was acceptable to many consumers because it generally cost less.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which represents state regulators, was skeptical of the change.
"Creating two tiers of plans — the compliant and non-compliant — could result in higher premiums overall and market disruptions in 2015 and beyond," said NAIC president Adam Hamm, who is North Dakota's insurance commissioner. Although Hamm is a Republican, the NAIC is nonpartisan.
Separately, the House on Wednesday voted to delay for one year the penalty faced by individuals under the law if they fail to sign up for health insurance. It was the 50th time Republicans have forced a vote to repeal, gut or change Obama's health overhaul.
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