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September cutoff set for bare-bones health plan waivers

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Providers of bare-bones health insurance plans have until September to seek exemption from certain coverage requirements set under the 2010 health care reform law, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The agency said on Friday that insurers will need to file by September 22 for waivers regarding annual coverage limits under such "mini-med" health plans.

The plans, generally designed for low-wage restaurant and retail workers, provide lower benefits than the average health insurance plan.

As the health law required, in September 2010, insurance plans began phasing out their annual limits. Today, most plans cannot impose an annual limit that is lower than $750,000. Beginning in September 2011, that allowable limit increases to $1.25 million and in September 2012 it will rise to $2 million.

Such limited benefit plans are to be phased out when subsidies and new coverage options provided for in the health law come on line in 2014. The law prohibits plans from setting annual and lifetime spending limits after that point.

"Until then, annual limits are phased out in order to preserve access to needed benefits and affordability of coverage," CMS said in a statement.

The total market for limited benefit plans is about 1.4 million people.

(Editing by Carol Bishopric)