New HHS Regulation: Offer insurance to people who do not pay for it, or get kicked off the exchanges next year

December 14th, 2013

Avik Roy reports on what he dubs the “most lawless acts yet committed by this administration.” In a new rule, HHS is “urging” insurers to ensure that people who have not paid for their premiums continue to receive coverage:

HHS assured reporters that it would be “urging issuers to give consumers additional time to pay their first month’s premium and still have coverage beginning January 1, 2014.” In other words, urging them to offer free care to those who haven’t paid. This is a problem because the government has yet to build the system that allows people who’ve signed up for plans to actually pay for them. “One client reports only 15 percent [of applicants] have paid so far,” Bob Laszewski told Charles Ornstein. “So far I’m hearing from health plans that around 5 percent and 10 percent of consumers who have made it through the data transfer gauntlet have paid first month’s premium and therefore truly enrolled,” said Kip Piper.

So what’s wrong with “urging” insurers to do something? HHS does not really ask for things. It can demand things, with very strong strings attached to it. And what strings are attached here? If insurers do not play ball, they may be kicked off the plans next year.

“What’s wrong with ‘urging’ insurers to offer free care?” you might ask. “That’s not the same asforcing them to offer free care.” Except that the government is using the full force of its regulatory powers, under Obamacare, to threaten insurers if they don’t comply. All you have to do is read the menacing language in the new regulations that HHS published this week, in which HHS says it may throw otherwise qualified health plans off of the exchanges next year if they don’t comply with the government’s “requests.”

“We are considering factoring into the [qualified health plan] renewal process, as part of the determination regarding whether making a health plan available…how [insurers] ensure continuity of care during transitions,” they write. Which is kind of like the Mafia saying that it will “consider” the amount of protection money you’ve paid in its decision as to whether or not it vandalizes your storefront.

This entire rollout is like the prequel to Atlas Shrugged.