With just a few days before an anticipated vote, Senate Republicans released a revised version of their Obamacare repeal legislation Monday that adds a continuous coverage requirement to the draft bill they unveiled last week.
The original draft, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, but did not include a similar mechanism in its place incentivizing healthy people to get insurance. Health care experts and insurers warned that such a system would risk a death spiral, as only sick people sought coverage.
The revised legislation released Monday requires insurers to impose a six-month waiting period on those seeking to join plans if they have had a break in coverage lasting two months or more in the previous year. Vox and other outlets over the weekend reported that Senate Republicans were considering the change to their bill.
Under the Affordable Care Act, people who lose coverage and don’t promptly use a special enrollment period have to wait until the next open enrollment period to regain coverage. The Senate provision adds a six-month waiting period on top of that — the later of either six months after his or her application for insurance or the first day of the next plan year.
The House bill, the American Health Care Act, included its own version of a continuous coverage requirement that imposed a 30 percent surcharge on consumers who had not maintained continuous coverage when they sought to enroll in a plan. The Congressional Budget Office was skeptical of the effectiveness of such a penalty. It remains to be seen how it will assess the Senate’s version, but Obamacare supporters are already criticizing it for locking out consumers from coverage if they have a gap in coverage.
The Senate provision includes an exemption for newborns and those under 18 years of age who are newly adopted.