Another important provision of the Affordable Care Act has been postponed. The provision that would set caps for out-of-pocket insurance costs will be delayed for more than one year. Under Obamacare, the limit on out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and co-payments was not supposed to exceed $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for a family. Now, it appears that a one year grace period has been granted to some insurers which enables them to raise limits, or in some cases, set no limits until 2015. Also, if a drug plan doesn’t currently set out-of-pocket limits, they won’t have to impose any until 2015.
The delay will leave some consumers paying much more for health insurance and drug coverage. The lag allows many group health plans to maintain separate out-of-pocket limits.
Why the health care reform delay? The New York Times reported that federal officials wanted to provide insurers and employers more time to comply because they used “separate companies to help administer major medical coverage and drug benefits, with separate limits on out-of-pocket costs. In many cases, the companies have separate computer systems that cannot communicate with one another.”
The chief executive of the National Health Council said the delay will “disproportionately harm people with complex chronic conditions and disabilities.” For those with chronic illnesses like cancer, out-of-pocket costs can swell to tens of thousands of dollars each year. The same applies to prescription drug plans. Many patients will have to wait for access to affordable prescription drugs because of the out-of-pocket cost cap delay. The American Cancer Society noted that some new cancer drugs can cost more than $100,000 per year.
Obamacare still affords some consumer protections. Consumers can’t be denied insurance or face higher premium costs due to pre-existing conditions. Subsidies may be available to help bring down costs as well.