These newest waivers were approved under a new policy announced in June (see HHS Issues New Guidance on Annual Limit Waivers and Health Care Annual Limit Waiver Program Closing Early) 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 will last through 2013, as long as sponsors comply with certain requirements, including submitting plan information to the government each year, and ensuring 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, according to HHS.
Business Insurance explains that 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 no new waivers or extensions of existing waivers will be approved after September 22 (see Health Care Annual Limit Waiver Program Closing Early).
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