HHS outlines policy changes to lift insurers

Federal health officials dropped regulations late Friday outlining how they plan to help insurance companies stuck with unanticipated costs due to ObamaCare's botched rollout.

In a 279-page document, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) detailed adjustments to the healthcare law's "risk corridors" program, a means for shifting money from insurers who fare better under the new system to those who fare worse.

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Risk corridors have been decried by conservatives as a bailout that could leave taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars. The administration said Friday that it will implement the program in a budget-neutral way.

Under the proposed rules, the administration would tweak the formula that determines how much money insurers pay and receive through the risk corridors.

The change will mean that some companies see higher payments, or higher charges than under previous rules. The calculations will correspond with insurers' administrative costs and on average, "suitably offset" any unexpected spending, according to the administration.

Specifically, HHS would raise the administrative cost ceiling from 20 percent to 22 percent, and increase the risk corridors' profit margin floor from 3 percent to 5 percent.

The notice stated that the change would apply on a national basis in 2015 because "these additional transitional costs and uncertainties will be faced by issuers in all states."

The rulemaking, which carries out previous announcements, is the administration's latest move to ease pressure on insurers from the many delays and changes to ObamaCare's rollout. Officials are hoping the policies will mitigate any substantial premium increases for next year.

HHS also proposed standards for certain consumer notices, quality reporting surveys and people involved in consumer outreach under ObamaCare.

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