Early Retirees’ Health Insurance Fund Running Out
A federal report predicts this $5 billion account created as part of the health law will be drained by 2012. In related news, one senator criticizes the program's handling. Also drawing criticism are exchange regulations, which advocates say could undermine the law's goal of expanding health insurance. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized standards — part of the administration's efforts to reduce health disparities — to track factors that affect people's health.
The Wall Street Journal: Fund To Pay For Early Retirees' Health Insurance Running Out
A $5 billion fund created as part of the health care overhaul to pay for health insurance for early retirees will run out of money by September 2012, according to a federal report released Monday. Around 6,000 employers are currently getting subsidies through the program to help pay for benefits for retired workers between the ages of 55 and 64. The fund reimburses 80 percent of the eligible claims for between $15,000 and $90,000 paid on behalf of a retiree who isn't yet eligible for Medicare, the federal insurance program for people age 65 and older (Radnofsky, 10/31).
The Hill: Enzi Alleges Political Favoritism In Retiree Program
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) slammed the Health and Human Services Department for the way it has awarded funding from the health care law, but government auditors found nothing untoward about the process. Enzi criticized HHS for its handling of the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP), a $5 billion program created by the reform law to help cover retirees who are older than 55 but not yet eligible for Medicare. HHS has spent about $2.9 billion of the total funding (Baker, 10/31).
Politico Pro: Exchange Regs Faulted On Subsidy Structure
Advocates who fought hard to pass the health care reform law are now saying a regulation proposed by the Obama administration threatens to undermine the law's main goal of expanding affordable coverage to all. Many families could go uninsured if the administration doesn't change a rule on eligibility for premium subsidies, Medicaid advocates warn in comments on proposed federal guidelines for new health insurance exchanges. And some physicians and progressive groups are lending support to a charge House Republicans made last week: The structure of the subsidies could cause couples to break up so they don't endanger their chances of getting help paying for coverage (Millman and Feder, 10/31).
The Hill: HHS Finalizes Standards On Health Disparities
The Health and Human Services Department on Monday finalized new standards to track broad factors that affect people's health. The standards are part of HHS's effort to reduce health care disparities — differences in health status and access to health care that stem from social, cultural and environmental issues. HHS devised the new standards to provide more detailed information than what it has collected previously. The department cited, for example, differing rates of diabetes between Mexican-Americans and Cuban-Americans. By tracking health data on that level, rather than using catchall terms like "Hispanic," HHS says it will be better able to address health disparities. The standards announced Monday also include tobacco use, obesity, education level and exposure to secondhand smoke (Baker, 10/31).