HHS

Now That ACA Remains in Place Maybe We Should Keep An Eye On This Recent HHS Letter to Governors.

“……We are seeking to empower states with new opportunities that will strengthen their health insurance markets.”

Thomas E. Price, M.D., The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), A Letter To Governors, dated March 13, 2017

 

On March 13, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent a letter to state governors to highlight Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Beginning in 2017, Section 1332 allows states to apply for a State Innovation Waiver from certain ACA requirements.

With the lawmakers firmly stuck in the healthcare mud, one wonders if some states might start to make health insurance changes on their own. Under a little known provision of the Affordable Care Act (Section 1332) called the State Innovation Waiver, states have the ability to make changes by applying for waivers from certain major provisions of the law beginning this year (2017).  These waivers are intended to allow states the flexibility to pursue innovative strategies for providing their residents with access to high quality, affordable health insurance, while retaining some of the consumer protections of the ACA.

Examples of things that may be waived include:

  • Establishment of qualified health plans (QHPs);
  • Consumer choices and insurance competition through the Exchanges;
  • Premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions for plans offered within the Exchanges;
  • The employer shared responsibility rules; and
  • The individual mandate.

While this provision and Price’s recent letter on the subject seemingly flew under the radar, you have to wonder if we might start to see some states initiating their own changes to Obamacare. If this is going to happen, we’ll likely start hearing about it in the next few months.  Sometime this summer is when carriers submit rate increases or announce intentions to withdraw from the individual market all together.  Analysts are predicting both to happen.  It’s anticipated carriers will request huge rate increases — sticker shock on steroids — for individual plans on and off exchange.  And, more carriers are expected to be leaving the individual market.  Aetna and UnitedHealthcare are already out, and Bloomberg recently reported that Anthem (BlueCross and Blue Shield in 14 states) is leaning toward exiting in most if not all of its markets.

I doubt anyone really knows where all this is going, or where it will end up. Maybe some states will act, maybe not.

One thing that’s almost certain: Access to employer sponsored health plans will be more important than any time since Obamacare (ACA) became law.

Here’s a link to more info:  HHS Promotes ACA Section 1332 Waivers

MEDICARE PANIC SETTING IN AS EMPLOYEES APPROACH 65th BIRTHDAY??? LET’S CLEAR UP THE CONFUSION ABOUT INITIAL ENROLLMENT

Can’t tell you how many calls and emails we get from panic-stricken employees nearing that magic 65th birthday and Medicare eligibility.  It happens a lot.  A whole lot.

Some folks think if they don’t sign up three months before they turn 65 they’ll be in trouble. Others think the drop dead date to sign up is their birthday.  And, many, many people think if they don’t enroll in Medicare by those dates they either won’t be eligible at all, or they’ll be penalized and get socked with much higher premiums.

Here’s the scoop:

THE MEDICARE INITIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD IS 7 MONTHS LONG.  IT INCLUDES YOUR BIRTHDAY MONTH, THE 3 MONTHS BEFORE AND THE 3 MONTHS AFTER.

Here are some basics, courtesy of Medicare Made Clear, that employees approaching their 65th birthday may want to know and save them from hitting the panic button:

1.)  You Have a Set Time to Enroll in Medicare

Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is 7 months long. It includes:

  • The 3 months before the month you turn 65
  • The month you turn 65
  • The 3 months after the month you turn 65

Medicare Enrollment Date Calculator.

2.)  You Can Delay Medicare Part B

Most people get Part A (hospital insurance) premium-free because they or a spouse worked and paid taxes. Part B (medical insurance) has a monthly premium.

You can delay signing up for Part B if you have other health care coverage like employer-sponsored health coverage.  Having employer-sponsored health coverage gives you to the option to delay signing up for Part B, qualifies you for a Special Enrollment Period, and precludes you from getting hit with Late Enrollment Penalties if you elect to delay Part B.

3.)  There Are Two Ways to Get Medicare

Medicare gives you two Medicare Coverage Options:

  • Original Medicare (Parts A & B), the traditional way
  • Medicare Advantage (Part C), an alternative to Original Medicare

Original Medicare is administered by the federal government. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. They must provide all the same benefits as Original Medicare Parts A and B. Many plans include additional benefits, such as prescription drug coverage and more.

4.)  Medicare Doesn’t Cover Everything

Original Medicare doesn’t include coverage for prescription drugs. You may buy a standalone Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D) plan to get this coverage.

Some people also buy a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plan to help with some costs not paid by Original Medicare.

Generally, you don’t need additional coverage if you choose a Medicare Advantage plan.

 

7 Months. That should make some breathe easier.

DO ELECTION RESULTS SIGNAL END OF OBAMACARE?

Highly respected industry expert Bob Laszewski provides an ongoing review of health care policy activity and the health insurance marketplace. We have followed his takes on healthcare reform for some time and have always found them to insightful, balanced, realistic and mostly on target.  And, you can count on straight talk, no bull.  We were very interested in his reaction to last night’s election results.

Here’s some of what Laszewski had to say about Obamacare immediately on the heels of last night’s presidential election:

There is no doubt that Obamacare is dead……..

…….There are two routes they will consider:

  1. Immediate repeal and replace that can rebuild insurance reform under the Senate 51-vote budget rule. Following this route will mean that the pre-existing condition reforms, for example, would have to remain in any new law because they are not budget related and would have to stay. The individual mandate (the Supreme Court declared it a tax) could be done away with as well as all of the exchange subsidies and the Medicaid expansion because they are spending related. Just what this path would look like in detail will depend upon what Senate budget rules ultimately determine to be budget items and whether that would be enough to build a health law consistent with a Republican vision.
  2. Effectively repealing by using the Senate 51-vote budget rules to gut the financing of the law on a future date certain. That would be followed by the Republicans saying to the country and the Democrats that Obamacare would continue as is until that future date––Obamacare would continue to cover everyone in the exchanges and under Medicaid. But if Democrats didn’t cooperate in legislating a new health insurance law, they will argue, it will be on the head of the Democrats that people lost their coverage on the day funding ends. This course could have the effect of forcing the Congress to agree on a new bipartisan path for health insurance reform––or result in one incredible implosion of coverage if the Democrats didn’t cooperate.

Either way, Obamacare is over.”

No words minced, for sure.

You can read Bob’s entire article Obamacare: Dead Law Walking!  here.

http://healthpolicyandmarket.blogspot.com

EMPLOYER REIMBURSEMENT OF INDIVIDUAL HEALTHPLAN PREMIUMS REMAINS A BANNED PRACTICE UNDER ACA

While this was more of a hot topic when the full monty of healthcare reform was implemented back in 2014, some employers perhaps unaware of the turmoil in the individual marketplace still ask about reimbursing employees for individual health insurance policies.

The IRS, the Department of Labor and Health and Human Services have all released several directives and guidelines that pretty clearly prohibit the practice. The most recent was issued in December 2015 (n-15-17).

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