There is a new option on Healthcare.gov — individuals with canceled coverage now qualify for a “hardship exemption,” and can purchase “catastrophic insurance.” Catastrophic plans were originally available for people under 30, or those who had a hardship exemption. By giving the hardship exemption to people who lost insurance as a result of the law, they now qualify for this plan. The announcement was made days before the December 23 deadline for coverage that begins January 1.
A catastrophic policy on the exchange requires up front, out-of-pocket payments for health care, up to a specified dollar amount. Essential benefits after that payment point has been reached are generally paid by insurers. People with this type of coverage will have three free primary care visits per year and free preventative benefits.Catastrophic plans come at a standard price, so income will not lower monthly premiums, or out-of-pocked expenses.
The policy change follows a December 18 letter, sent by a sextet of Senators – five Democrats, and one independent — to Health and Human Services (or, HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Angus King (I-Maine) wanted clarification on the hardship exemption. The group desired that, “An individual whose 2013 plan was canceled and considers their new premium unaffordable should qualify for a temporary ‘hardship exemption’ and, thus, be able to purchase a catastrophic plan.”