Last chance? Obama administration proposes health law fixes

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WASHINGTON — In one of its last chances to tinker with the president’s signature health care law, the Obama administration Monday proposed a series of fixes and adjustments for 2018, when the White House will have a new occupant.

The changes are detailed in a highly technical draft regulation, nearly 300 pages long. Insurers and consumer advocates were trying to decipher its implications Monday evening.

The proposal would update the health insurance marketplace’s premium stabilization system to reflect concerns that insurers have raised. It also proposes changes to a current five-year ban on companies returning to the health law’s markets after they have left. Some big name carriers have dramatically scaled back for 2017.

For consumers, the rule includes an effort to make it easier to compare competing insurance plans, as well as a new method for calculating premiums for children, geared to avoiding large increases after a child turns age 21.

There’s also language to limit abuse of “special enrollment periods” during which people can get coverage outside of the normal sign-up season.

The proposed regulation comes in advance of what’s expected to be a difficult 2017 open enrollment season, with many consumers facing big premium increases and less choice.

If Republican Donald Trump becomes president, the administration’s latest proposal could be rescinded before it can take effect. Trump has promised to repeal and replace Obama’s health care law.

But the changes may appeal to a president Hillary Clinton, who has committed to building on the Affordable Care Act and addressing its problems.

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