Obamacare Allows Exemptions, Relaxing Rules 4 Days Before Deadline

On Thursday, President Obama made a concession to Americans concerned that they've lost their health insurance because of Obamacare: they don't have to get new insurance right away. (Even though the deadline to buy insurance is three days from now.) The loss of insurance policies came as a shock to many who took at face value the president's promise that those who already had insurance would not have to buy new policies under the Affordable Care Act. The policies that were canceled actually fell short of the law's standards, but that didn't lessen the shock for those who felt the rules had been changed on them.

Now the rules have been changed in those policy holder's favor. Last month, the president allowed each state to determine whether it would allow the questionable policies to continue for another year in order to provide a buffer. But the new announcement goes even further: come January 1, those with canceled policies can claim a "hardship exemption" if they think the new plans are too expensive. They will also avoid the fee that is otherwise imposed on people without plans.

Such exemptions were previously allowed for those who couldn't afford insurance coverage, but this expands that group to a much wider pool. People with canceled plans can also opt for cheap but skimpy "catastrophic coverage" — an option previously offered only to people under 30, who are less likely to buy insurance anyway.

The decision has understandably angered many both within the insurance industry, and outside of it. Said one industry leader to the Washington Post, "This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers." One major idea behind health insurance for all is to get healthy people (who cost less) enrolled in order to lower prices across the board. If the healthy decide it's not worth it to go through the marketplace, we'll be back to where we were, with the same ballooning costs and instabilities.

Come January 1, we'll see what actually happens.