Moody's blasts proposed ObamaCare changes

A leading credit rating agency is panning two proposed changes to ObamaCare's implementation as negative for health insurance companies.

Moody's Investors Service said Thursday that requiring insures to expand their provider networks and allowing patients to keep non-compliant health plans for an additional two years could harm insurers and raise prices on the exchanges.

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The firm also characterized this week's second, partial delay of the employer mandate as frustrating and logistically complicated for the insurance industry.

"Insurers have already begun to develop and sell small group compliant policies to employers," stated a credit outlook report released Thursday.

"Now that these employers are no longer required to meet the requirements of the [Affordable Care Act] for 2015, they may want to retain their existing policies for another year, forcing insurers to resurrect plans they had intended to discontinue … What was going to be a challenging selling season for insurers in the small group market just became more challenging."

The report follows a variety of delays and adjustments to ObamaCare's rollout that have put insurers on the spot, most intensely in the last three months.

The surprise changes have triggered criticism that the administration is implementing the healthcare law based on its own whims.

In a sign of perhaps more changes yet to come, federal health officials told insurers this month that they may require those selling policies on the exchanges to expand their provider networks. And under another proposal, the administration may extend the amount of time that people can continue using health coverage that does not meet ObamaCare's new benefit standards.

The administration and consumer advocates argue that these changes would help patients by widening access to medical care and easing the transition into the system created by the healthcare law.

But Moody's on Thursday said further adjustments will confuse the public and negatively impact the marketplaces' risk pools.