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WASHINGTON—The Department of Health and Human Services said it has approved 106 three-year waivers from so-called mini-med and other limited health care plans from meeting a health reform law requirement that restricts annual dollar limits for essential benefits.
The newest waivers were approved under a new policy announced in June in which all future waivers—both from initial applicants and those seeking a renewal of an earlier waiver—would be given for three years. Previously, waivers were given for one year, with plan sponsors then required to seek a renewal each year.
The 106 waivers approved since June 17 have been for three years and will last through 2013 as long as sponsors comply with certain requirements, including submitting plan information to the government each year and ensuring that enrollees understand the limits of their coverage.
Through the end of July, 1,472 one-year waivers and 106 three-year waivers have been approved for plans with 3.4 million enrollees, HHS said last week.
The waivers are needed because most, if not all, mini-med and other limited benefit plans run afoul of federal rules that set a minimum annual dollar limit on essential benefits that health care plans must provide in 2011, 2012 and 2013 under the health care reform law. The minimum limit is $750,000 in 2011, $1.25 million in 2012 and $2 million in 2013. Those minimum limits are greater than the maximum benefits provided through mini-med plans, which typically are offered to low-wage, part-time or seasonal employees.
Starting in 2014, the reform law bars annual limits for essential benefits, which is why the waivers will extend only through the end of 2013.
HHS has already announced that no new waivers or extensions of existing waivers will be approved after Sept. 22.