Health Law’s Retiree Health Plans, Exchanges, Waivers Draw Scrutiny
A congressional report found that the retiree health plan could run out of money as soon as this year, Bloomberg reports. Meanwhile, the health overhaul's insurance exchanges create a challenge for GOP governors just as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners will examine exchange issues among other topics at their Austin meeting. On the political front, Politico reports on how the health law fits into the plans of Senate Democrats for 2012.
Bloomberg: Retiree Health-Plans' U.S. Subsidies May Run Out This Year
A $5 billion U.S. government fund to subsidize retiree health costs for employers including Johnson & Johnson, Alcoa Inc. (AA) and General Electric Co. (GE) may run out of money as soon as this year, a congressional report found. The health law President Barack Obama signed last year created the fund as a stop-gap measure to help keep people insured until 2014, when the measure creates a national system of subsidized plans for most Americans. The government pays 80 percent of insurance costs, as much as $90,000 a year, for retirees aged 55 to 65, who don't yet qualify for Medicare (Wayne, 3/24).
National Journal: Insurance Exchanges Pose A Catch-22 For GOP Governors
A key portion of the health care law has some Republican governors cornered. The law requires states to manage and maintain a virtual marketplace for health insurance, called an exchange. While federal health officials are still sussing out how they'll operate, they nevertheless envision an exchange as an online portal that allows consumers to comparison shop for coverage. If [GOP governors] lag behind or otherwise elect not to participate, then HHS - either directly or through a nonprofit group - will take the reins and run the exchange for them (DoBias, 3/24).
The Wall Street Journal: More Lawmakers Questions Health-Care Waivers
Lawmakers on the House Small Business Committee want to know if smaller firms were among more than 1,000 entities granted health-care reform waivers last year by the Department of Health and Human Services. In a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, committee chair Sam Graves (R., Mo.) said he wanted to "ensure that all entities, particularly small businesses, have been treated fairly and equitably in the waiver process." The letter went on to ask 13 questions about the exemption process, including the number of small-business owners requesting waivers and the reasons for approving or denying their requests (Loten, 3/24).
Politico Pro: NAIC Digs In On The Details
Everything may be bigger in Texas, but at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners meeting opening here today, the key action hinges on the small but crucial details of insurance regulation. In its two previous meetings, the NAIC took hotly debated votes to move forward on the medical loss ratio regulation, laying out what would count as medical costs and what would be administrative. While this Austin meeting won't have any big votes, it will see insurance commissioners weigh in on key issues: whether they want to endorse legislation to alter the medical loss ratio and how they will proceed on health exchanges in the face of growing Republican opposition (Kliff, 2/25).
Meanwhile, on the political front:
Politico: Senate Democrats Plan Health Law Strategy
It may be uphill for Democrats to hold the Senate in 2012, but they're eyeing an opportunity on the health care law: They believe the Republican candidates might be forced to push so hard for repeal that they lose swing voters (Nather, 3/24).