- The Obama administration announced that individuals whose insurance plans have been canceled will be eligible for “hardship exemptions” from the requirement to have coverage in 2014. New CMS guidance indicated the agency was merely “clarifying” its policy, and the application for the exemption already included a category for consumers whose plans were canceled and couldn't afford other coverage. Some critics, however, said the policy opens a loophole that undermines the individual insurance mandate at the core of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Others called it evidence that the law itself is a “hardship.”
White House announces ACA 'hardship exemption,' and other news
- A glitch Friday stacked up health insurance shoppers on HealthCare.gov before what was expected to be an extremely heavy weekend for enrollment. The federal website started directing consumers Friday morning to a “queue,” notifying them there was a problem with the site and to come back later. HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in a statement Friday that the queuing system was in place “while the tech team works on fixing an error that happened during routine maintenance (Thursday) night. The outage, which Peters said was expected to take two to three hours, came as people are expected to flock to the site before a Dec. 23 deadline to sign up for coverage that's effective Jan. 1 under Obamacare.
- The Food and Drug Administration will attempt to shorten the time medical device manufacturers wait for health plans to pay for new products. The newly formed Medical Device Reimbursement Task Force will create a formal process that allows a device company to request a pre-submission meeting with FDA staff and one or more private payers. The agency intends to launch a pilot program next year. “We recognize that the mere fact the FDA approves or clears a device is not equivalent with patients getting access to that device,” Murray Sheldon, associate director of technology and innovation at the FDA, said last week. The FDA already has a similar pilot program, launched in 2011, that allows devicemakers to ask the CMS to review a product for Medicare coverage at the same time FDA is reviewing it for approval. This month, the agencies extended it through 2015.
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