The Obama administration, in an 11th-hour change, announced significant exemptions for people who recently lost their insurance coverage and are struggling to get a new plan -- drawing immediate criticism from the insurance industry and Republican lawmakers.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius confirmed the changes, which include letting those individuals skirt the law's individual mandate, in a letter to senators. She said she would allow people who got cancellations and could not find affordable new coverage to qualify for a "hardship exemption" in order to avoid a penalty next year for not having insurance.
Further, she announced that those individuals will be able to purchase bare-bones plans that until now were available only for people under 30.
The move, though, to allow potentially hundreds of thousands of people to sign up for "catastrophic" coverage plans was criticized by the insurance industry as a shift that would cause "tremendous instability.”
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