Health Care Reform Implementation Update - February 14, 2014

by Cozen O'Connor
Contact

This week the Obama administration announced that it would delay the employer mandate, which requires that businesses with more than 50 full-time employees provide full-time employees with health insurance or pay a penalty, for some businesses until 2015, marking the second time the mandate has been delayed.  The House and Senate passed a measure to raise the country’s debt limit, averting the Treasury Department’s projected February 27 deadline.  Though House Republicans had considered attaching a 9-month sustainable growth rate patch (“doc fix”) to the bill, it was ultimately passed with no attached conditions.  Also, Senator Ron Wydenwas confirmed as the new Senate Finance Chairman, a position that will put him at the helm of one of the most important health policy committees in Congress.

ON THE HILL

On February 12, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) was confirmed to lead the Senate Finance Committee, taking over the chairmanship from the new ambassador to China, Max Baucus.  The Senate Finance Committee is one of the primary committees with jurisdiction over healthcare issues.

The House Ways and Means Committee advanced legislation that would change the workweek under the ACAfrom 30 hours to 40 hours.  Currently the ACA requires employers (with more than 50 employees) to provide health insurance to all full-time employees, where an employee qualifies as full-time by working 30 hours a week.  Republicans in the House and some Democrats are working to change the definition of full-time under the ACA to 40 hours a week.  This initiative is in part inspired by the significant number of employer cutbacks in employer hours to just under 30.  While a requirement that employees who work 40 hours be provided health insurance by their employers may result in similar hour reductions, hour reductions to just under 40 allow employees to work more hours than hour reductions to just under 30.  Further, a 40-hour definition fits what many believe is a more traditional full-time workweek.  This week, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois) signed on to a Republican-led bill sponsored by Rep. Todd Young (R-Indiana), which would increase the number of hours an employee has to work to be eligible for health benefits from his or her employee from 30 to 40 hours.

The House and Senate passed legislation on February 12 to undo prior cuts to military pensions and pay for the change by extending sequestration for another year, which results in significant cuts to Medicare providers in 2024 and raises concerns among Medicare providers that sequestration-level reimbursement will eventually become the new norm.

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), the independent body that advises Congress on issues affecting the Medicare program, is next scheduled to meet in March.  We will provide further information on the agenda as it becomes available.

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), the non-partisan federal agency charged with providing policy and data analysis to the Congress on Medicaid and CHIP, is next scheduled to meet on February 20.  We will provide further information on the agenda as it becomes available.

AT THE AGENCIES

On February 10, the Treasury department announced that it would delay the ACA’s employer mandate until 2016 for businesses with between 50 and 99 employees. Additionally, employers are not permitted to cut their workers to meet the threshold. This provision of the ACA was already delayed once from January 2014 to January of 2015.  Employers with 50 or fewer employees will not have to provide insurance to their employees, as was already the case.  Additionally, the regulation gives businesses with more than 100 workers additional time to prepare to provide coverage for their employees.  House and Senate Republicans responded to the additional time given to employers before they must comply with the mandates or face a penalty by renewing calls for the same treatment for the individual mandate.  Several Senate Republicans are also reaching out to the Internal Revenue Service requesting further information on how the individual mandate and its penalties will be enforced.

The regulations also detail some specific ways the employer mandate will affect school employees, saying that they may not be considered part-time (and thus an employee who does not require health insurance under theACA’s employer mandate, which only applies to full-time employees), even though schools are closed for part of the year.

Parts of HealthCare.gov will be down over President’s Day weekend for maintenance.  The deadline to sign up for coverage for March, however, is this Saturday.  In light of the upcoming deadline, the Obama administration announced a special enrollment period for people who have difficulty applying for March 1 coverage.  From 3pmSaturday through 5am Tuesday, customers will be able to access HealthCare.gov, even though they will not be able to verify their identities by the Social Security Administration.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced that about 1.1 million people signed up for health insurance through the ACA exchanges in January, bringing the total enrollment through exchanges to 3.3 million.  The administration says that 25 percent of the enrolled population is made up of the “young invincibles” it is hoping to attract, the population between 18 and 34 years old who are likely to be healthier and less expensive to the system.

On February 7, CMS announced that providers would have an extra month to demonstrate that they meet requirements for meaningful use of electronic health records.  The deadline, originally February 28, has been extended to March 31.

IN THE STATES

New York's state health agency said over 412,000 people in the state had enrolled in ACA since open enrollment began in October.  Two-thirds of these enrollees were previously uninsured.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York and HHS had reached an “agreement in principle” on an $8 billion Medicaid waiver to help struggling hospitals throughout the state that otherwise would have closed, particularly those in Brooklyn.  New York had requested a $10 billion waiver.

CMS is giving the Massachusetts Health Connector (Massachusetts’ insurance exchange) a three-month extension, until June 30, for subsidized insurance programs that were set to expire to provide Massachusetts with extra time to make its troubled insurance exchange function.  CMS’ extension is in acknowledgment that the state’s exchange is not functioning.

IN THIRD PARTIES

The American Medical Association (AMA) has been lobbying forcefully in favor of the SGR repeal and replace legislation offered last week.  The AMA will not, however, speak to how this legislation should be paid for, which is the biggest obstacle to the legislation’s passing.

The Senate has been considering a proposal to extend unemployment insurance that would extend the 2% Medicare sequester cut that kicked in last year by one more year until 2024. On February 10, several of the nation's largest hospital groups joined together to send a letter that urges senators to oppose extending Medicare sequester (which refers to the automatic spending cuts to federal government spending) cuts to restore unemployment benefits.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Cozen O'Connor | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Cozen O'Connor
Contact
more
less

Cozen O'Connor on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.