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Window to Washington

An inside-the-beltway look at the legislative and regulatory process.
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By Jessica Zigmond and Rich Daly

Blog: Tardy regs will have lingering effect

By Rich Daly

The administration has shrugged off attacks for its delays on issuing Obamacare regulations. But you'd think they would have been more timely on the Basic Health Program regs, whose postponed implementation will have a major impact on the law's coverage expansion.

The BHP was designed to provide coverage assistance program for people with incomes too high for Medicaid but who cannot afford exchange coverage, even with subsidies. An HHS guidance document released this week put off proposed rules until sometime later this year and implementation of the program until 2015. That's a year later than originally planned.

The delay will hit coverage expansion for people the law was supposed to benefit the most: the low-to-moderate income uninsured.

Even if the federal government is successful in helping states continue their versions of the BHP, most of which are scheduled to end this year because they assumed the federal government was picking up the slack, people living in states that lack their own versions of the BHP will be out of luck.

The delay is especially bad news since the Congressional Budget Office earlier this week found that 2 million fewer people are likely to gain health insurance exchange coverage next year than was previously projected. The rule delay means as many as 600,000 people, whom the Urban Institute estimated would gain health insurance through the Basic Health Program, may not find any coverage options they can afford.

You can follow Rich Daly on Twitter @MHRDaly.

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