Feds Agree To Waive Minimum Health Insurance Requirement For 30 Companies While 3 GOP Congressmen Begin Probe Of Health Law Costs
The federal government has issued a waiver for 30 companies so that they do not have to abide by a provision of the new federal health law that would have required the companies to provide a minimum of $750,000 in health insurance coverage for covered employees, Bloomberg reports. That figure would increase until it became unlimited in 2014. The waiver will affect a million employees. The issue generated news stories last week after reports that McDonald's might cut coverage for workers because of the requirement. "Thirty companies and organizations, including Jack in the Box Inc., won't be required to raise the minimum annual benefit included in low-cost health plans often used to cover part-time or low-wage employees. The Department of Health and Human Services, which provided a list of exemptions, said it granted waivers in late September so workers with such plans wouldn't lose coverage from employers who might choose instead to drop their health insurance altogether" (Armstrong, 10/5).
The Hill's Healthwatch Blog: Meanwhile, three Republican congressmen have sent letters to 50 state governors and the mayor of Washington, D.C., asking for details on how they plan to implement the overhaul and projections on how much they expect it to cost. "Their letter gives the local leaders two weeks to answer nine questions concerning such as issues as the costs of the Medicaid expansion, the effect of cuts to safety net hospitals payments and how the states will pay for it all" (Pecquet, 10/5).
And, lawsuits from states, individuals and interest groups are piling up against the law, Kaiser Health News/USA Today reports. Examples: "This week or next, a federal judge in Pensacola, Fla., is expected to issue a preliminary ruling on perhaps the most prominent lawsuit," brought by 20 states; "Any day, a judge in Michigan could act on a request by the Thomas More Law Center to issue an injunction blocking the government from taking any further action implementing the law"; and, "On Oct. 18, the Republican attorney general of Virginia heads back to court for another round of hearings with a federal judge who recently turned down a Justice Department request to throw the case out" (Schmitt, 10/6).
One more thing: In an interview with Real Clear Politics, former Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly -- now a health care consultant with McKinsey -- highlighted just how much is still up in the air with this law. She said, "The Secretary -- and by extension several different agencies in the federal government -- will have significant authority throughout the implementation phase. By one count, the law uses the phrase 'The Secretary shall' 1,000 times. So that gives you a sense of the scope of the decisions yet to be made" (10/4).