Last week the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new proposed regulations on FY 2014 payment updates and regulatory policy changes for inpatient and long term care hospitals, skilled nursing facilitates, hospices and inpatient rehabilitation facilities; the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a proposed rule on the minimum value of coverage employers must provide to their employees; the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) issued guidance explaining the role agents and brokers will play in health insurance marketplaces; Hill leadership, while technically out of session, was busy debating how federal employees will interact personally with insurance marketplaces; and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shortened the application for health coverage in response to concerns that initial enrollment forms were too long.
ON THE HILL
A provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires lawmakers and their staff to participate in the health-insurance marketplaces. At the end of last week, questions were raised about whether, under the ACA, congressional employees will be able to continue having their health insurance premiums subsidized by the government, or whether they will have to pay 100 percent of their premiums in 2014. Congressional leaders are discussing possible exemptions for Capitol Hill staffers but are sensitive to the potential for political backlash from a decision to exempt them.
On May 1, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) released Making Medicaid Work, a blueprint to modernize the Medicaid program.
IN THE WHITE HOUSE
Speaking at a news conference at the White House on April 30, President Obama said the Affordable Care Act is already benefitting most Americans, even if they do not know it. Major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, however, do not take effect until 2014.
AT THE AGENCIES
CMS announced that the application for health coverage has been simplified and significantly shortened. The application for individuals without health insurance has been reduced from 21 to three pages, and the application for families was reduced by two-thirds. Also, CMS announced that for the first time consumers will be able to fill out one simple application to see their entire range of health insurance options, including plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and tax credits that will help pay for premiums.
This week, CMS, as is usual, issued proposed rules for FY 2014 for inpatient and long term care hospitals, skilled nursing facilitates, hospices and in-patient rehabilitation facilities. In general, the rules propose modest positive updates and appear to be in line with initial expectations, notwithstanding some novel policy proposals. As always, the rules are proposed and will not be finalized until later this summer. Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies has evaluated the inpatient and long term care hospital rule, and a summary is available here. We will be writing similar summaries of the other rules in the days ahead. Please be advised that there is ample opportunity to comment on these proposals before they go into effect on October 1.
On April 30, the IRS released a proposed rule on the health insurance premium tax credit enacted by the Affordable Care Act. Under the Affordable Care Act, some employees will be eligible for premium tax credits if the coverage provided by the employer does not provide “minimum value.” The rule spells out how to determine the value of coverage an employer must provide in order not to trigger the employer mandate penalty by proposing inputs that will be used to determine whether minimum value has been met.
The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) issued a document explaining the role agents and brokers will play in the health insurance marketplaces. The guidance suggests that agents and brokers, including web brokers, will be a major source of marketplace assistance for individual consumers using the marketplaces.
On April 30, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) eased requirements for purchase of Plan B emergency contraception. Those who are 15 years and older will not need a prescription to get this emergency contraception, which lowers the current age restriction by two years.
IN THE STATES
House Bill 818 passed through the Pennsylvania House by a vote of 144-53. The bill is designed to prevent health plans on Pennsylvania’s insurance exchange, when the law kicks in, from including abortion services. The bill reads, “No qualified health plan offered in this Commonwealth through the health insurance exchange shall include coverage for the performance of any abortion.” The Pennsylvania Senate will consider the bill soon.
On April 24, a Louisiana house health panel voted along party lines to defeat a measure that would expand the state’s Medicaid program. A parallel discussion took place in the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The senators moved to delay a vote on the bill because they would like to have a representative from the Department of Health and Hospitals answer questions first.
Legislation that would let optometrists, pharmacists and nurse practitioners perform medical tasks currently reserved for doctors passed through the California Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee on April 29.
The dominant insurer in Maryland, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, says proposed premiums for new policies for individuals are going to rise by 25 percent on average next year.
IN THE COURTS
On May 2, a group of small business owners and self-employed individuals from six states filed a lawsuit against the federal government arguing that the IRS did not have the authority to impose an employer coverage requirement or the associated penalties in those states with a federally facilitated exchange. The lawsuit was filed in D.C. District Court.
IN THIRD PARTIES
A new study from the Brookings Institution, Bending the Curve, outlines reforms designed to reduce health care spending by improving care and promoting value-based payments.
Forty-two percent of those surveyed in a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll did not know that the Affordable Care Act continues to be the law. Some responded that it had been repealed by Congress; others said it was overturned by the Supreme Court.
A new study from The New England Journal of Medicine, The Oregon Experiment – Effects of Medicaid on Clinical Outcomes, received a lot of press attention this week. The study compares thousands of low-income people in Oregon receiving Medicaid with an identical population that did not. The study shows that those with Medicaid coverage spent more on health care, but were not, however, healthier. A 2008 Medicaid expansion in Oregon based on lottery drawings from a waiting list provided a unique opportunity for this randomized-controlled trial.
To view our compilation of recent health care reform implementation news, click here.