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The Wall Street Journal (10/13) reminds readers that Medicare open enrollment and the new health insurance marketplaces are not the same. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have estimated that average Advantage premiums will increase by 5% next year on average to $32.60, while analysts say the average hides changes insurers have made to Advantage plans following Federal government payment cutbacks, and predict some plan’s premiums will spike. Towers Watson managing director of exchange solutions Bryce Williams also expects insurance companies to “push more and more cost back to the participant in the form of deductibles and copays.”
Exchange to use Paper Applications
Over the weekend through Monday, several outlets carried coverage of the ongoing troubles with the new Federal marketplace website.Several also focused on questions surrounding enrollment figures in the exchange. The Washington Post (10/13) reported that what had “been considered Plan B” for ACA insurance exchanges “has become the plan,” namely to use paper applications for insurance and bypass the websites “altogether.” The Post says the “slow and labor-intensive substitute for what was supposed to be a snappy online application” may create “significant consequences” through delays and other complications in what “was supposed to be one-stop shopping.” The Post notes the problems affect the federally run exchange and some in the states.
Very Few Sign Up via the Exchange
The Daily Caller (10/11) informs that a report from the Daily Mail said that “only 51,000 people signed up for Obamacare viaHealthcare.gov during its first week, falling far short of the Obama administration’s expectations.” The report cites “two sources inside the Department of Health and Human Services” who provided “an exclusive look at the earliest enrollment numbers.” HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would not “comment on the record about the numbers.” In addition, the White House “did not respond to emails seeking comment.”
Government Hiring Rules Waived
Mark Tapscott, executive editor of the Washington Examiner (7/26) reports that, according to documents obtained by the Judicial Watch nonprofit watchdog group, “Federal officials waived civil service personnel rules intended to insure the government hires high-quality people” in order to fill positions to implement PPACA. Indeed, US Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry granted “Direct Hiring Authority” to HHS so that officials could “expedite employment of 1,814 top-level administrators, most of whom would be paid in excess of $100,000 annually.”
The AP (10/9) reports that the Obama Administration said Wednesday that “you’ll have to get coverage by Valentine’s Day or thereabouts to avoid penalties for being uninsured,” about “six weeks earlier than a Mar. 31 deadline often cited previously.” The discrepancy is explained by the lag time between application for a policy and enrollment.CQ (10/10) notes that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has mentioned December 15 and March 31, but “has not emphasized that Feb. 15 is also a key date.”
Employers Cap Part-time Hours
The Washington Post (7/23) reports that while the Administration delayed PPACA’s employer mandate until January 2015, employers around the nation who capped part-time employee hours in anticipation of the mandate, have no plans to reverse their decisions. The Post notes that it is “unclear how many companies have already cut staffing hours this year in anticipation of the law,” but Administration officials “say there is no evidence that large numbers of businesses are cutting their workers’ hours this year.” The officials also cite Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers which “suggest full-time hiring has grown despite the employer mandate.”
Republicans Push to Delay Individual Mandate
The Washington Times (7/20) reports that during “the Republicans’ weekly address, House members who sponsored bills to delay key mandates in President Obama’s health care law called on the White House and Democrat-controlled Senate to take up the measures and provide ‘equal justice under the law.'” Rep. Tim Griffing (R-AR) and Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) “said the same one-year delay should be applied to the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to obtain some form of health coverage.”
No Plans to Postpone Individual Mandate
A top Treasury official suggested late last week in testimony before members of Congress that his department has no current plans to delay additional provisions of PPACA. J. Mark Iwry, Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary for retirement and health policy, told lawmakers that the employer mandate is the only policy that has been considered for deferral. GOP lawmakers asked Iwry to explain whether Treasury has the ability to also delay the individual mandate to buy health insurance. Iwry replied that his department had not conducted the necessary analysis to answer that question. The House last week passed legislation that would delay the rule that most individuals carry health coverage starting Jan. 1. Republicans and some Democrats argued that individuals should not be required to comply next year if businesses will not be required to provide insurance until 2015. (TheHill.com, 7/18)
HSA/HDHP Popularity Continues to Grow
According to American Medical News (7/15) a report by America’s Health Insurance Plans found that “15.5 million people were covered by health savings accounts/high-deductible health plans as of January,” which is “an increase of about 2 million from 2012.” Experts believe that “employers are turning to HSA/HDHP plans because insurance premiums are rising, and they want to control expenditures and ensure their costs are more predictable from year to year.”
Navigator Rules Released
The Hill (7/13) “Healthwatch” blog reported that HHS released final rules for its “navigator” program, which “will help people make sense of their options under ObamaCare.” The 145-page regulation “finalized standards for training and certifying navigators.” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said, “Navigators will be trained to play a vital role in fulfilling our commitment to help consumers learn about and apply(or quality health insurance when open enrollment for consumers in the Marketplaces begins October 1.” CQ (7/13) reported that among other provisions, the regulation calls for navigators to receive 30 hours of training.
Republicans Seek to Postpone Individual Mandate
Following the recent postponement of PPACA’s employer mandate, House Republicans set up a series of votes last week that could postpone other key provisions, namely the individual mandate. (New York Times, 7/10). TheWashington Times (7/10)”Inside Politics” blog reports that according to a new survey out of HealthPocket, “about four in 10 Americans think the individual mandate in President Obama’s health-care law should be delayed.” Further, “only 12 percent of respondents said the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that individuals acquire health insurance should start as planned in 2014.”
Governor Corbett plans to keep up negotiations with the federal government over a potential Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania
Appearing on WITF’s Radio PA program ‘Ask the Governor,”‘Corbett insisted that changes should be made to the program before it is expanded. He said it doesn’t make sense to keep pouring money into a broken system. ‘What I have been doing is trying to get some reforms from the Department of HHS, in Medicaid, for instance allowing us to keep our children in the CHIP program.’ The state Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of language that would have required Medicaid expansion by next July, but it was ultimately stripped from the welfare code bill. House Republicans agree with Corbett that he needs the freedom to negotiate with the federal Department of Health and Human Services. But Medicaid expansion supporters are lamenting a lost opportunity. They say it would provide health insurance for another 500,000 low-income Pennsylvanians, and have a positive impact on the state budget to the tune of $255-million a year.” (WITF, 7/10)
Governor Corbett Announces PA Will Not Create State-Based Health Exchange
Pennsylvania today joined 19 other Republican-run states that decided not to create state-based health exchanges under the federal Affordable Health Care Act. Governor Corbett said the Obama administration did not until this week provide answers to questions about the “costs, impacts and flexibility” that he needed in order to inform his decision. “Healthcare reform is too important to be achieved through haphazard planning. Pennsylvania taxpayers and businesses deserve more.” Corbett said in a statement “They deserve informed decision making and a strong plan that responsibly uses taxpayer dollars.” Philadelphia Inquirer (12/12)
Private Healthcare Exchanges: An FAQ
Oliver Wyman’s latest research shows that private exchanges are no fad – they’re a very real consideration for employers with at least 50 percent of employers willing to leverage them for a 10 percent cost savings and as such they must be a material component of any health plan’s strategic plans. But while there’s growing consensus private exchanges are here to stay, there are many unknowns on what they will look like and how they will operate. To bring some clarity, Oliver Wyman compiled a collection of critical, top-of-mind questions facing the industry and answered them based on experience with first movers and our recent employer and employee research – providing a host of lessons learned and “voice of the consumer” feedback that can help health plans (and even some providers) avoid certain missteps and focus on the key success factors that will unlock the value private exchanges can offer. To download the full FAQ on private exchanges click here.