In Washington, when they want to get a read on what employers are thinking about health reform, they call employers…AND they call Lockton Benefit Group experts. Multiple times since the health reform law passed in 2010, Lockton executives have testified, and late in May 2012 compliance attorneys/Health Reform Advisory Practice leaders Ed Fensolt, J.D. and Mark Holloway, J.D. headed back to D.C.
Testifying before the House subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, Fensholt told the group that the reform law’s additional coverage mandates had added at least 2-3 percent to most clients’ health plans thus far, and that additional mandates due to come online in 2014 would add to those costs. Fensholt also noted that employers buying fully-insured coverage could expect to see cost increases of $10-15 per employee per month beginning in 2014 on account of tens of billions of dollars in excise taxes imposed on health insurers and drug and medical device manufacturers, as a means of paying for a portion of the cost of the health reform law.
Fensholt’s testimony was balanced. He pointed out that some aspects of the reform law are of significant benefit to employers, such as the medical loss ratio rules (requiring some insurers to rebate a portion of premium costs) and the additional leverage employers receive for imposing premium surcharges on employees who decline to embrace healthy lifestyle changes.
Click to read a transcript of the testimony. Pictured above are Ed Fensholt, J.D. and Mark Holloway, J.D.
The White House today issued a report describing the progress 10 states have made in establishing Health Insurance Exchanges. Recall that under 2010’s federal health reform law, every state is tasked with establishing an insurance exchange—a sort of online purchasing portal for individual and small group (and later, large group) health insurance. States are given freedom to design their respective exchanges, within broad parameters set by the law and its regulatory coattails. If a state fails to act (or acts too slowly) the federal government is permitted to operate an exchange for it.
Despite millions of taxpayer dollars doled out to states to help them jumpstart their exchanges, many states are lagging well behind—typically for political reasons—in efforts to create exchanges. The federal government has set early 2013 as the deadline for states to demonstrate adequate progress on their respective exchanges, to avoid federal intervention. Interestingly, it is the threat of federal intervention that is prompting some recalcitrant states to get the exchange wagon moving.
Access the White House’s report by clicking here.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality and other aspects of last year’s federal health reform law over three days in late March, 2012.
See the online article posted today by Jerry Geisel at Business Insurance for more detailed information:
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide next year whether the “individual mandate” under 2010’s federal health reform law is constitutional (and if not, whether the remainder of the law must also be thrown out). Although the date for arguments on these matters has not been set, last week the Court issued its briefing schedule on the issues to be argued.
The briefing schedule sets the deadlines by which the parties involved in the pending challenge to the law must submit their written arguments to the Court. Thus, the briefing schedule gives us a clue as to the timing of the ensuing oral arguments—wherethe parties literally argue their positions in the presence of, and take questions from, the Court’s justices. The Court tends to issue its decisions within weeks after oral arguments, so the briefing schedule also supplies some clues as to the timing of the Court’s decision.
With regard to the issue of the individual mandate’s constitutionality, the Court wants the Obama Administration’s brief (the Administration will argue that the mandate is constitutional) by January 6, and the brief of those opposed to the mandate by February 6. The Administration’s reply brief, which will challenge the opponents’ written arguments, is due March 7.
There is a similar briefing schedule on the question of whether, if the mandate is unconstitutional, the entire law must also be tossed aside.
This all suggests oral arguments may be heard as early as April, with a decision to follow by early to mid-summer. The Court has set aside at least five hours for oral arguments, well in excess of the typical hour reserved for arguments. This reflects, in part, that the Court is considering several weighty issues at once (the constitutionality of the individual mandate, its severability from the rest of the law, and some procedural issues), but also reflects the significance of those issues.
Another federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of the health reform law’s individual mandate, the obligation that virtually all Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or face potential penalties.
The ruling, by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is the second such ruling by a federal appeals court. A third appeals court concluded the mandate is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the matter next year, likely by April or May.