CMS sees 500,000 stranded health policyholders

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of consumers who have lost individual policies and have failed to find other coverage appears to be less than 500,000, the administration said Thursday.

The number of stranded policyholders could shrink further in the coming days, officials said.

Americans in most states who want to have individual coverage in place Jan. 1 have until Dec. 23 to select their plans. The open enrollment period for 2014 coverage is set to end March 31.

Policy cancellations have become a nagging headache for the White House, adding to the bad publicity stemming from problems with the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) federal and state enrollment websites.

Since PPACA became law in 2010, President Obama has repeatedly promised that people who liked their insurance would be able to keep it.

But the law also set minimum standards for coverage, and regulators interpreted the law to mean that coverage sold after PPACA took effect that failed to meet PPACA standards would go away in 2014.

In part because of federal efforts to steer consumers into what regulators argued would be better coverage, insurers have canceled policies that have been covering about 4 million people this year.

Some of those people are buying new plans through their insurance company or the government exchanges, officials say.

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