A project of the George Washington University's Hirsh Health Law and Policy Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Key Developments

CMS issues Basic Health Program information for 2016

Posted on October 22, 2014

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed notice on how the federal government will determine payment amounts for 2016 for states that decide to establish a Basic Health Program. The Basic Health Program is a voluntary option under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provides insurance to individuals between 133 and 200 percent of poverty through a separate program rather than having them go to the exchanges. The proposed notice says that states that establish the program will receive federal funding equal to 95 percent of the amount of premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies that would have otherwise been provided to those individuals for exchange plans. However, the funding does not cover states’ ongoing administrative or operational costs.

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ACA health plan agreements include Halbig provision

Posted on October 21, 2014

Insurers must sign Affordable Care Act (ACA) qualified health plan (QHP) agreements in order to offer their plans on HealthCare.gov for 2015. The 2015 agreements include a provision that takes into account the fact that the Supreme Court could issue a ruling on the Halbig v. Burwell case sometime next year that would make ACA subsidies illegal in federal exchange states. In the agreements, CMS reassures plans that if ACA premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies are no longer available to qualifying enrollees in the federal exchanges, the health plan could have cause to terminate the agreement subject to applicable state and federal law.

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CMS issues guidance on ACA health insurance tax

Posted on October 9, 2014

Guidance issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) advises states that that their capitated payment rates for Medicaid managed care plans should cover the costs of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) health insurance tax, as it is considered a “reasonable business cost.” The tax starts at $8 billion in 2014 and increases every year, up to $14.3 billion in 2018. Starting in 2019, the amount of the tax will increase annually based on premium trends. CMS contends that this fee is not unlike other taxes and fees that actuaries must take into account when developing capitation rates.

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Oklahoma judge rules on ACA tax subsidies

Posted on September 30, 2014

A federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that tax subsidies granted under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) cannot go to residents of states with a federally-facilitated health insurance exchange rather than a state-run exchange. The ruling is similar to the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Halbig v. Burwell earlier this month. The government has requested an en banc review of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in order to ensure an opportunity to resolve circuit split before the Supreme Court grants cert.

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DOL issues final rule on excepted benefits

Posted on September 30, 2014

The Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule regarding excepted benefits and stand-alone dental and vision plans. In the original proposed rule if the wraparound coverage met a number of requirements, it would have been considered an excepted benefit that would not disqualify the employee from getting subsidized coverage on the exchanges. However, this language is excluded from the final rule issued. The DOL said it intends to publish regulations on the topic of wraparound coverage in the future, taking into account the extensive comments received on the topic.

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OIG releases report on security of online Marketplaces

Posted on September 23, 2014

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of Healthcare.gov, the online Federal Marketplace, from February to June 2014, including vulnerability scans and simulated attacks. In doing so, they found that the site’s security had been improved since last October’s launch of the insurance marketplace. However, OIG still found some vulnerabilities and the report recommended ways to further improve the site’s security, which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says have already been implemented.

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IRS issues final rule on ACA write-off limit

Posted on September 19, 2014

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) finalized a half-million-dollar cap on deductions that the biggest insurance companies can take for executive pay. This final rule will affect certain health insurance providers giving remuneration that exceeds the deduction limitation. According to a recent analysis, the little-known Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision amounted to about $1.3 million per executive for the largest insurers in 2013. The rule details what companies and employees are subject to the limit and how it should be applied.

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Reports speculate on uninsurance rates

Posted on September 17, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics released the results of its first quarter health insurance survey. The results show that the percentage of uninsured adults dropped to 18.4 percent from 20.4 percent in 2013. However, this modest reduction does not capture the influx of last minute sign-ups in March and is lower than other estimates that used data from later in the year.

A new Census report also examined uninsurance rates finding that forty-two million people in the U.S. lacked any health insurance for the whole of 2013- 13.4 percent of the population. The report breaks down the uninsured rate by race and estimates the proportion of the population insured through private, employer-sponsored, and public insurance. However, this report does not include data from the major expansion of coverage from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) starting in 2014.

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GAO report finds insurers aren’t separating abortion funds

Posted on September 17, 2014

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that 15 insurers in a sample of 18 are selling Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans that do not segregate funds to cover abortion from their ACA subsidies, despite the ACA requirement  that insurers collect separate payments from customers for abortion coverage. The report was commissioned by House Republican leadership amid concerns that  customers were able to use federal health care subsidies on insurance policies that cover abortion procedures. However, about half of the states have passed laws forbidding exchange plans from covering abortion at all, so this issue may not be nationally pervasive.

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HHS releases final rule on ACA eligibility and re-enrollment

Posted on September 3, 2014

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a final rule on eligibility and re-enrollment for the second open enrollment season of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The rule specifies additional options for annual eligibility redeterminations and renewal and re-enrollment notice requirements for qualified health plans offered through the Exchange, for benefit year 2015.  This final rule provides additional flexibility for Exchanges, including the ability to propose unique approaches that meet the specific needs of the state.

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