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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

High-Risk Pools in CA to Obtain Federal Subsidies

In a NAHU Briefing update to agents on Health Care Reform I have noted that the High Risk Pool for CA will now have federal subsidies to help those who have been declined for health plans the opportunity to afford and enroll in the High-Risk plans though the State.

"California Lawmakers Approve Bills To Create High-Risk Pools.
The AP (6/29, Bussewitz) reports, "The California Legislature has narrowly passed two bills that will enable the state to obtain $761 million in federal subsidies to help thousands of uninsured Californians to obtain health insurance." Notably, the "bills enact federal health care reform changes and would create a high-risk pool for people who have been denied health insurance because they have pre-existing medical conditions."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Small Group Employers and Health Care Reform Updates

The Washington Post (6/15, Hilzenrath, Aizenman) reports, "If you like your health plan, you can keep it. That's what President Obama promised during the long months of debate over health-care reform," and the new rules issued on Monday are meant "to fulfill that promise." The Post adds, "The administration estimates that many plans will end up changing, prompting Republicans to accuse the president of breaking his word."
According to the AP (6/15, Alonso-Zaldivar), "The Obama administration had a message Monday for employers who want to keep federal bureaucrats from rewriting the rules for their company medical plans: Don't jack up costs for workers, and you won't have to worry about interference from the new health care law." HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who made the announcement, said, "What we don't want is a massive shift of costs to employees." The AP points out that this "new regulation that spells out how health plans that predate the health overhaul law can avoid its full impact."
For instance, the "regulations empower the administration to revoke the so-called grandfather status of businesses that shift 'significant' new burdens onto employees -- a considerable penalty that would subject those plans to all the consumer protections in the Democrats' new healthcare reform law," The Hill (6/15, Lillis) notes. Under these new rules, Sebelius said, "employers can make 'routine and modest' adjustments to their premium, deductible and co-pay requirements," although "'significant' cost hikes or benefit cuts would cost them their exempted status. The goal is to ensure that grandfathered plans 'don't use this additional flexibility to take advantage of their customers,'" she added.
Kaiser Health News (6/15, Galewitz, Carey) reports, "Business groups gave mixed reviews Monday to new Obama administration rules limiting how much employers and insurers can change their health insurance plans -- while remaining exempt from potentially costly new consumer protections." Notably, "consumer groups praised the regulations, saying the rules would ensure that millions of Americans receive the full benefits of the new health-overhaul law." In contrast, "business groups that opposed the enactment of the health overhaul law denounced the regulation." Randel K. Johnson, a senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, stated, "Once grandfathered status is lost, employers will be forced to follow a number of expensive new insurance rules -- which will increase costs for employers and employees, threatening the coverage Americans currently have."
Reuters (6/15, Charles) notes that investors and analysts are paying close attention to these new rules, as well as to the others being issued as health reform is being implemented, in order to determine their impact on the health insurance industry. The USA Today (6/15, Kiely) "The Oval" blog also covers the story.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Federal Government Cutting Funds to Medicare Program

The States are all reporting in and on the record as saying that cuts to medicare funding will help cause an unfavorable chain of events! Here is what Senate Majority Leader is doing about it:

Reid Working To Restore Medicaid Funds In "Extenders" Bill. CQ Today (6/8, Rubin, subscription required) reports, "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to undo a cut in aid to states that the House made to a tax and benefits bill that the Senate is scheduled to consider this week." Notably, "the House passed the bill (HR 4213) last month after paring it to satisfy members concerned about its cost. Reid, D-Nev., said Monday that he wants to put back billions of dollars of funding designed to help states cope with higher Medicaid costs during the recession." This "bill would also revive expired tax breaks, extend expanded unemployment insurance through Nov. 30 and prevent a scheduled payment cut to doctors under Medicare through 2011."