In other instances, federal officials have rethought some of the marketplaces rules, as it has become clear that some of the customers who have used HealthCare.gov purchased a health plan without fully understanding its benefits or which doctors and other health-care practitioners were part of its network. Specifically, the new policy says consumers may make changes before March 31, the end of an open enrollment period that began in October, if they want to move to a plan with a more inclusive provider network or fit within other isolated circumstances according to the memo, which does not define what the other circumstances might be. People who switch must stay with the same insurer and tier of coverage. Asked about the new rule, a CMS spokesman, Aaron Albright, said: We added this new flexibility, recognizing that many consumers are using a new system and getting coverage for the first time. CMS officials had not decided when they were going to announce the change to the public. According to the most recent federal figures, about 3 million Americans had signed up for health plans as of late January through the federal marketplace operating in three dozen states and separate marketplaces in 14 states. It is unclear how many of those people have paid their first insurance premium the step needed to become insured. Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation who specializes in consumer assistance issues, said that most private insurance allows people to switch to any other health plans during open enrollment periods, not just to other plans offered by the same insurer.
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Obama administration considering extension for people to keep individual health plans, official says
Avalere Health CEO Dan Mendelson said Thursday that the administration may let policyholders keep that coverage for as long as an additional three years, stressing that no decision has been made. Policymakers are waiting to see what rate hikes health insurers plan for the insurance exchanges that are key to the overhaul’s coverage expansions. “The administration is entertaining a range of options to ensure that this individual market has stability to it, and that would be one thing that they could do,” he said. Avalere Health is a consulting firm, but Mendelson said his company was not advising the administration on exchange policy. He said he has had informal discussions with administration officials about the extension, but he didn’t identify them. Health and Human Services spokesman Joanne Peters confirmed that the issue is under discussion, saying: “We are continuing to examine all sorts of ways to provide consumers with more choices and to smooth the transition as we implement the law. No decisions have been made.” Aetna Inc. Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini also told analysts during a conference call Thursday to discuss quarterly earnings that he had heard the plans may be extended.
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