Obamacare

Deja Vu: CMS extends Transitional Relief Plans (pre-ACA) Through 2019

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) recently announced that employers in the small group market that are currently still enrolled in Transitional Relief Plans (also known alternatively as Keep Your Plan, Grandmothered Plan, Pre-ACA Plan, etc.,) may keep their existing policies and plans for another year.  

CMS stipulates that ultimately granting the extension is left to the discretion of state regulators and to the respective participating insurance carriers. Most — if not all – states and carriers are expected to grant the extensions and allow employers to keep the Transitional Relief Plans in place for another year.

The CMS announcement also noted that the Transitional Relief Plans will not be considered out of compliance.

This extension, first granted in 2014 and granted every year since, runs through December 31, 2019.

We’ll be following this closely with the insurance carriers and will keep all of our clients who currently have Transitional Relief Plans informed.

For more info click on the link below:

CMS_Extension-Transitional-Policy-Through-CY2019

As Expected, States Will Have More Control and Greater Flexibility in Regulating Obamacare Starting in 2019

In a CMS press release the Trump Administration announced yesterday, as expected, that beginning in 2019 individual states will have more control and greater flexibility in regulating the individual health insurance market and the Obamacare Marketplace (aka the Exchange). In a summary of the “final 2019 Payment Notice Rule” CMS highlighted provisions that were intended to increase flexibility, improve affordability, and decrease administrative burdens.

 

It’s likely that changes made at the individual state level will ultimately have some impact either directly or indirectly on employer sponsored health coverage, particularly the small group market. We will be monitoring this very closely for our clients and will report back, especially as we get closer to 2019 and more information becomes available.

In the meantime, here’s a sampling of the headlines and links to the respective articles following yesterday’s announcement by CMS:

Here’s a link to the CMS press release:

 

Executive Order Ends the “Out-of-Pocket” Subsidy Only; the “Premium” Subsidy Remains in Place

Some folks may think that Friday’s Executive Order did away with Obamacare subsidies altogether.  It didn’t.

There are two subsidies. One was cut.  One wasn’t.

In a nutshell, one subsidy lowers the cost of premium (aka premium tax credits) for those qualified individuals and families enrolled through the exchange and making less than 400% above the poverty level.  This stays in place.

The other covers a reduction in the out-of- pocket expenses or claims costs paid to the medical provider by the patient (aka cost-sharing reductions). This subsidy applies to those earning below 250% of the poverty level and covered by a plan issued by the insurance company through the exchange.

It’s this out-of-pocket budget appropriation that was cut by Friday’s Executive Order.

From what we hear, despite Friday’s Order most of those enrollees who qualify for the out-of-pocket assistance will continue to receive it as part of their coverage at least through 2018.  Many of the insurance carriers still participating on the exchange expected the subsidy cut and planned for it when they filed their rate increases and established their pricing for 2018.

You can read more here.

Wonder Why Our Healthcare Costs Are So High?

Bob Laszewski is an insurance health industry expert we regularly track to stay up to speed on the national healthcare picture. His typically even-handed analysis has been consistently the most accurate of any of the opinion leaders we follow.  Here’s how Laszewski summed up the primary reason for our country’s runaway healthcare costs during a recent interview broadcast on the national news program Full Measure in a segment entitled Zombiecare: 

The healthcare establishment has been getting unlimited dollars from government, from employers, from consumers. They built this incredible infrastructure now that’s very expensive. And the only way we’re going to make healthcare more affordable is to deal with all this infrastructure we’ve got and get it to an efficient place.

 When asked how we address this infrastructure problem, here’s the pragmatic Laszewski take:

“We’re going to have to do it over many years. In the private sector and the public sector, we’re going to have to put them on a diet. It really is the prices we charge. We’re going to have to, in real terms, ratchet those back so that hospitals and doctors understand there’s going to be less money in the years to come.”

During the interview Laszewski addressed several things related to the current status of health insurance and the Affordable Care Act. Among the items he addressed:

The Individual Mandate and Paying the Penalty

“The law technically says that you have to have health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance, you will pay a fine. But the Trump administration has told the Internal Revenue Service, who is in charge of collecting the fines, that when people file their tax returns, if they refuse to say whether they have health insurance or not, the IRS should not pursue them. You technically have to pay it. Your accountant’s probably going to tell you, you technically have to pay it, but it’s not being enforced.”

ObamaCare as Zombie Care(because a Zombie is the walking dead)

“Obamacare is still there, it’s still walking around. It’s still selling health insurance plans to people. But it has no chance in its present form of ever offering affordable and attractive health insurance. And more and more people are just exiting it and going uncovered because they can’t afford it.”

Our takeaway from all this? Be smart.  Stay incredibly vigilant.  Take full advantage of every tool we have at our disposal to do the best we can to help our clients control costs and navigate the turbulent healthcare waters.

There’s still no clear big picture path anywhere in sight.

To watch the entire interview or to read the full transcript, go here.

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