The decision covers residents in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner acknowledged in her notice last week
that the law was "undermining the stability" of the territories' insurance markets.
That's because the territories were subject to some parts of the law but exempt from others. Namely, their residents did not receive subsidies to help defray the cost of insurance and their residents were largely exempt from the requirement to buy insurance.
But insurance companies were still supposed to follow the law's requirements to cover everyone with a certain minimum set of benefits, and other standards.
The lopsided requirements crippled the individual markets in some of the territories. In the Northern Mariana Islands, the top provider, for example, told the insurance commissioner it would stop selling new plans to residents. Premiums shot through the roof and the idea of long-term affordable health care became more myth than reality.
Last year, HHS told the territories it had no legal authority to exclude them from the provisions in ObamaCare. It furthered its case by saying the law adopted an explicit definition of "state" that includes the territories for the purpose of the mandates.
But late last week, Tavenner sent a letter to the governments of those same five territories exempting their individual health insurance markets from virtually all the major remaining provisions. She said that after a "careful review," the department determined the definition of "state" actually means "these new provisions do not apply to the territories." (I didn't hear of a vote in Congress that re-wrote that definition of "state". Maybe someone else did?)