(CBS NEWS) -- The Obama administration has quietly delayed another key element of the Affordable Care Act, the New York Times reported Tuesday, exempting some insurers for a year from the new limit on out-of-pocket expenses.
Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, explicitly set annual
limits -- $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for a family -- on
out-of-pocket expenses. Mr. Obama touted the reform as one of the many
consumer protections his sweeping health care law would include to make
insurance more affordable.
Now, however, some insurers won't have to follow the limits until
2015, giving them more time to adjust their computer processing systems
to the new requirements. The Times notes that the exemption has been posted on the Labor Department's website
since February "in a maze of legal and bureaucratic language that went
largely unnoticed." Indeed, the Labor Department site acknowledges that
some health "plans may utilize multiple service providers to help
administer benefits," suggesting they need more time to comply.
limit on out-of-pocket expenses was a huge selling point for patients
suffering from conditions with costly treatments, including cancer or
"The promise of out-of-pocket limits
was one of the main reasons we supported health care reform," Theodore
M. Thompson, a vice president of the National Multiple Sclerosis
Society, told the Times. "So we are disappointed that some plans will be
allowed to have multiple out-of-pocket limits in 2014."
This is not the first setback in the health care law's implementation -- earlier this year, the administration announced it is delaying the mandate requiring businesses with more than 50 employees to offer their workers insurance.
delays have fueled conservatives' concerns about the law's design, and
Republicans have become more vocal about stopping the law's
implementation before some of the biggest of the law go into effect next
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday sent a letter
to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), arguing that
the government should delay the opening of the state-based health care
exchanges that are supposed to be ready for open enrollment this
October. McConnell's letter was in response to a Health and Human
Services (HHS) Inspector General's report produced last week, which
indicated that HHS has not proven that the online exchanges will be able
to secure consumers' personal data.
"While I have grave
concerns about this law under any circumstance, Americans should not be
forced into the exchanges, and certainly not without these assurances"
McConnell wrote. "If you rush to go forward without adequate safeguards
in place, any theft of personal information from constituents will be
the result of your rush to implement a law to meet the agency's
political needs and not the operational needs of the people it is
supposed to serve."