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More Obamacare changes: If you like your plan, you can keep it even longer

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Consumers who hold health insurance policies that do not meet Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements may continue renewing these policies through September 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in a March 5 media release. Although insurers may continue these non-compliant policies, they are not compelled by law to do so.

Originally, insurers could not sell substandard health plans beginning Jan. 1 of this year. Public outcry over cancellation notices prompted the Obama administration to extend the transition period through 2015. Yesterday’s announcement extends this period another year.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who introduced the Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise legislation last year that proposed extending the transition period for non-compliant policies indefinitely welcomed the announcement.

“The administration’s action today is a step toward keeping the promise that was made to the American people that if they liked their health plan, they could keep it. And I intend to hold the Administration to that promise” — Sen. Mary L. Landrieu

The ACA requires health plans cover 10 essential benefits. The law also places caps on out-of-pocket costs and requires that preventive care be fully covered. Insurance policies issued prior to January 2014 may lack these protections. Generally, substandard health plans have lower premiums than the Qualifying Health Plans (QHP) offered through the state insurance exchanges.

Consumers who wish to enroll in a QHP may shop for a policy in the Health Insurance Marketplace by visiting the website. Households with annual incomes between 138 and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level may be eligible for tax credits and cost-sharing reductions when enrolling in a plan on the exchange.