Health Insurance Premiums To Increase 72% in State Exchange

07.19.2013

So much for the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act. At least in some states, like Indiana, where along with Texas and Ohio, I have many clients. As October 1st winds nearer, the date when the Federal and State Health Insurance Exchanges must unveil the new health care compliant policies for 2014 that individuals, families and small groups must choose from – it is evident costs will skyrocket. According to the Indiana Department of Insurance rates there will increase 72%! (See Feature Article below.) In Texas–which is one of 34 states which elected not to establish a state exchange–the Federal Exchange will be the (default) exchange from which to elect coverage. It’s premiums are yet to be revealed but are predicted to be at least 30% higher than for those who currently have health insurance in Texas.

In conclusion, if you do not qualify for a federal subsidy for at least a portion of your coverage–prepare yourself for a significant rate increase. What does it take to qualify for a subsidy? Your annual reportable income must be less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Limit. *Refer to the chart below that limit, increasing increments and the accompanying subsidy.

Admin. – Kenton Henry

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FEATURED ARTICLE:

In Indiana, Individual Health Insurance to Cost 72% More Due to Obamacare

8:15 AM, Jul 19, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER

Obamacare will be costly for Hoosiers who already have health insurance, according to a report from Indystar.com.

“Insurance rates in Indiana will increase 72 percent for those with individual plans and 8 percent for small group plans under President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, according to the state’s insurance department,” reads the report.

“The spike in costs is due primarily to new mandates under the law, which requires insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions and to offer a minimum level of benefits, said Logan Harrison, chief deputy commissioner with the Indiana Department of Insurance under Republican Gov. Mike Pence. New taxes and fees under the law also contributed, Harrison said.

The Indiana governor tells the paper: “This new data regrettably confirms the negative impact of the Affordable Care Act on the insurance market in Indiana. … The Affordable Care Act requires many Hoosiers to purchase more comprehensive and more expensive health insurance than they may want or need. These rates call into question just how affordable health insurance will really be for many Hoosiers.”

Costs for individual plans is expected to increase from an average of $255 per member per month in 2012 to $570 in 2014, when the most aspects of the law go into effect.

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*2013 Federal Poverty Guidelines



48 Contiguous States and DC

Note: The 100% column shows the federal poverty level for each family size, and the percentage columns that follow represent income levels that are commonly used as guidelines for health programs.

 Household   Size

 100%

 133%

 150%

200%

 300%

400%

 1

$11,490

$15,282

$17,235

$22,980

$34,470

$45,960

 2

15,510

 20,628

23,265

  31,020

46,530

62,040

 3

19,530

 25,975

29,295

  39,060

58,590

78,120

 4

23,550

 31,322

35,325

  47,100

70,650

94,200

 5

27,570

 36,668

41,355

  55,140

82,710

110,280

 6

31,590

 42,015

47,385

  63,180

94,770

126,360

 7

35,610

 47,361

53,415

  71,220

106,830

142,440

 8

39,630

 52,708

59,445

  79,260

118,890

158,520

 For   each additional person, add

$4,020

 $5,347

$6,030

  $8,040

$12,060

$16,080


Alaska

 Household Size

 100%

    133%

 150%

200%

 300%

 400%

 1

$14,350

$19,086

$21,525

$28,700

$43,050

$57,400

 2

19,380

25,775

29,070

38,760

58,140

77,520

 3

24,410

32,465

36,615

48,820

73,230

97,640

 4

29,440

39,155

44,160

58,880

88,320

117,760

 5

34,470

45,845

51,705

68,940

103,410

137,880

 6

39,500

52,535

59,250

79,000

118,500

158,000

 7

44,530

59,225

66,795

89,060

133,590

178,120

 8

49,560

65,915

74,340

99,120

148,680

198,240

 For   each additional person, add

$5,030

$6,690

$7,545

$10,060

$15,090

$20,120


Hawaii

 Household   Size

 100%

 133%

  150%

 200%

 300%

 400%

 1

$13,230

$17,596

$19,845

$26,460

$39,690

$52,920

 2

17,850

23,741

26,775

35,700

53,550

71,400

 3

22,470

29,885

33,705

44,940

67,410

89,880

 4

27,090

36,030

40,635

54,180

81,270

108,360

 5

31,710

42,174

47,565

63,420

95,130

126,840

 6

36,330

48,319

54,495

72,660

108,990

145,320

 7

40,950

54,464

61,425

81,900

122,850

163,800

 8

45,570

60,608

68,355

91,140

136,710

182,280

 For   each additional person, add

$4,620

$6,145

$6,930

$9,240

$13,860

$18,480

Source: Calculations by Families USA based on data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Courtesy of All Med & Life Quote

http://allplanhealthinsurance.com

http://allplaninsurance.com

House to Vote on Affordable Care Act Individual and Employer Mandates

07.17.2013

Currently we have over 800,000 veterans awaiting decisions on their disability claims. The back log is so great–according to the most recent numbers available–the average wait time for a veteran is 15 months in Chicago, 16 months in New York and a year and a half in Los Angeles. Social Security’s disability program, which helps support 11 million Americans, will run through its trust fund in 2016, two years earlier than predicted. Couple this with the prediction Social Security, the fund that finances benefits for 44 million senior citizens and their survivors, will be exhausted by 2035 and Medicare, the health care program for those age 65 and over, will be have depleted its funds by 2024. Now consider a law has been passed which mandates health coverage for every American. Its objectives are largely, and initially, funded via subsidies from the federal government (you the tax payer). Can you possibly believe this is feasible given their track record? Given a federal debt of almost 17 trillion dollars? How long do you believe it will take before all private insurance companies are forced to withdraw from participation to be replaced by a single payer federally administrated program which can’t possibly be any more financially feasible than our government’s disability program, Social Security or Medicare?

Admin. – Kenton Henry

http://allplanhealthinsurance.com

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Today’s Feature Articles:

Legislation and Policy

House Votes To Target ACA Individual, Employer Mandates.

Coverage of the Obama Administration’s decision to delay the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate continues Wednesday, the same day the House is set to vote to further capitalize on the weak position they believe the move has put Democrats in. Most reports, some national in scope, focus on the House votes to delay both the employer and individual mandates, while others focus on the implications of both of these provisions.

McClatchy                          (7/17, Kumar) reports that on Wednesday, the Republican-ruled House is expected to vote to delay key parts of the Affordable Care Act, a move that “is the latest in a sweeping legislative and political campaign to weaken the 2010 law and raise even more opposition in the eyes of an already skeptical nation, especially as it heads into 2014 elections that will decide control of the Congress and set the stage for the 2016 campaign for the White House.” The back-to-back votes will determine “whether to delay insurance mandates for both employers and individuals.”

The Washington Times

(7/16, Howell) reports that “President Obama has threatened to veto” the bills. Meanwhile, “the votes will force Democrats to align with the president or distance themselves from the overhaul in the wake of its recent stumbles.” In addition, it has put the “Office of Management and Budget in the awkward position of threatening, in the case of the employer mandate, to kill a bill that would reflect the White House’s own decision-making.”

CNN

(7/16, Walsh) reports that “most House Democrats are expected to oppose two House Republican bills on Wednesday that would delay key provisions of Obamacare,” according to House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

The Hill

(7/17, Baker) “Healthwatch” blog reports that the bill to delay the individual mandate “would cut the deficit, but would cause insurance premiums to rise,” according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Implications Of Employer Mandate Delay Still Unclear. The AP

(7/17, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports on the “domino effect” that is currently “undercutting” the Affordable Care Act: the Obama Administration’s delaying of the law’s employer mandate could “weaken” the individual mandate, because the requirement that companies report health insurance details for employers has also been pushed back. As the article explains, “without employers validating who’s covered, a scofflaw could lie, and the government would have no easy way to check.” The piece calls this yet “another incentive for uninsured people to ignore a new government requirement that for many will cost hundreds of dollars.”

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Not All Insurers Game for State Exchanges: The Consumer Impact

By Kate Rogers

Published July 11, 2013

FOXBusiness

As more insurers decide to pack up and leave certain states as health exchanges start to take form, experts say consumers are going to be left  feeling the pain.

Over the last few weeks, several departure announcements have sent a ripple through the health insurance industry, as companies weigh whether or not they want to play ball under Obamacare. So far, California has experienced the biggest migration  with Aetna (AET), UnitedHealthcare (UNH) and Cigna (CI) leaving the state’s exchange, Covered California.

Aetna also reportedly sent out a note to select customers last week, warning that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is “changing health insurance.” Recipients were customers across the country with non-grandfathered health plans, meaning their plan was not in effect on March 23, 2010 and wouldn’t carry over under new state and federal exchange regulations under ACA.

“This includes adding preventative care and essential health benefits. The ACA also ends medical underwriting. Due to these and other changes, many people will pay more for their health insurance coverage in 2014 than they do today,” the letter stated according to the carrier.

Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield also decided not to list on the individual exchange in Iowa for 2014, due to a lack of information available in the state, according to a spokesperson for the Iowa Insurance Division.

Fifteen states and the District of Colombia are in the process of creating their insurance exchanges before the 2014 deadline; when individuals must purchase insurance or face a fine for failing for comply with the individual mandate. The employer mandate has been pushed back to 2015, and some in the GOP including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, (R-VA), are calling for the individual mandate to be rolled back as well.

More or Less Competition for Consumers?

Some experts say the recent departures hint consumers will have limited health-insurance choices thanks to the regulatory burdens of the law. Basic supply and demand dictates that with fewer insurers to choose from, consumers will have limited options and potentially higher prices, says Michael Cannon, director of Health Policy Studies at the CATO Institute.

A similar “exodus” occurred within the first six months of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Cannon says, when child-only care was enacted. Seventeen major insurers dropped child-only coverage, in an attempt to skirt the law’s new regulations and increased costs. The same may begin to take shape in the individual market.

“The program says you can’t charge higher premiums to the sick, so you have a situation where only low-risk consumers would be charged a premium much higher than their regular costs, so only people who buy it would be those who really needed it,” he says.

The employer mandate rollback is also a factor in the situation, says Grace-Marie Turner, founder of the Galen Institute, a health and tax policy research organization, as employers will now be incentivized to drop coverage and push their employees into the exchanges until 2015.

“It’s using employers to push more people into the exchanges,” Turner says.

Fewer insurers in state exchanges mean less competition, bottom line, she adds. “The whole point is we want more players, and more competition.”

Why California Matters

What happens in California is a big deal for the future of the Affordable Care Act, says Taylor Burke, associate professor and program director, MPH in Health Policy, at George Washington University.

“It’s an exit out the individual market, but [the insurers] only represent 8% of the individual market companies in the state,” Burke says. “California has the 7th largest economy on the globe, so whatever happens in California is a big deal for the stand up of the state exchanges.”

He points to two main reasons insurers leave a state: they don’t like the price points being offered in the exchanges nor the coverage they would have to offer under Obamacare’s 10 essential health benefits.

“In California, you can make the argument that there would be less choice, but if they stay in the market, their prices would be off the charts,” he says. “It would be a thing on the shelf, a high-ticket item that you couldn’t afford anyway.”

And if insurers take too long to make the decision, that may impact them negatively as well, he says.

“No one will want to buy their product. There’s a lot of hemming and hawing, but if the price point is too high, no one will buy it.”

But can consumers blame the insurer for higher prices? Turner says no, it’s the nature of the law’s regulations.

“Insurers can’t help the demands on the benefits they will have to cover—it will absolutely be more expensive,” she says. “It’s like going to buy a car with every accessory in the books—heated seats, fancy wheels, satellite radio, and saying you can’t charge more for it.”

What Insurers are Deciding

Robert Zirkenbach, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), says each individual company will have to make their own decisions about which states to participate in as exchange bids come in.

“It will be based on a variety of reasons, but plans are offering coverage on the exchange, some will be outside the exchange—there will be options for consumers,” Zirkenbach says. “It will depend on the state and regulatory environment.”

He says the AHIP wants competition among insurers to keep consumer prices in check.  “Choice and competition is a good thing—when states have been setting up their exchanges, we are trying to encourage this,” he says.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners says insurers who are leaving these markets are likely doing so because they have core businesses in other segments, including the large group market.

“The carriers we have seen exiting the individual market are not major players in that market segment, and therefore we don’t anticipate a major disruption of coverage for a large portion of the market,” a spokesperson said in an email statement. “Each insurance company is making decisions regarding its participation in exchanges based upon a number of factors.  Some are opting to participate in the exchanges, while others are not; however, nearly all of the requirements that apply to policies sold on the exchange also apply to policies sold outside the exchange, so insurers will not be avoiding a lot of requirements by opting out of the exchanges.”

Welcome to The MedPlus Messenger Blog!

THE MEDPLUS MESSENGER

VOL I, ISSUE 1, 16 JULY 2013

THE MEDPLUS MESSENGER blog is for the dissemination and discussion of information regarding health, Medicare and life insurance legislation; laws; trends; products and related topics. It is intended to be of use to the general public; clients and prospective clients of ALL PLAN MED & LIFE QUOTE the parent company of ALLPLANINSURANCE.COM: http://allplaninsurance.com; ALLPLANHEALTHINSURANCE.COM; ALLPLANINTERNATIONALHEALTHINSURANCE.COM and IndianaHealthInsurance4U.com.

ADDRESSING: HEALTH AND MEDICARE RELATED INSURANCE ISSUES INCLUDING THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT (ACA); COMPLIANCE WITH THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT; STATE AND FEDERAL HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGES; CURRENT BEST VALUES IN HEALTH INSURANCE; IMPACT OF THE ACA ON EMPLOYERS; DECLINATION DUE TO PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS; MEDICARE AND MEDICARE RELATED INSURANCE (MEDIGAP); PART D PRESCRIPTION DRUG PLANS

While The MedPlus Messenger has existed for sometime as an industry and marketing newsletter–today is the first time we have existed and published as a blog. The reasons for this are numerous but the greater ones are: the tremendous amount of confusion, on the part of the public, regarding the ACA and its implementation; the diverse opinions and perspectives on it; apprehension as to its effects on the quality of health care; the cost of insuring for medical expense and the options for doing so available to employer groups, individuals and families and Medicare recipients. Only through intelligent discourse of these topics can our subscribers transition through implementation into optimal utilization of health care, as well as protection against the cost for such, with as little inconvenience as possible. Only by discussing your concerns, , perspective, frustrations and opinion can Allplanhealthinsurance.com better meet your needs in this rapidly changing marketplace. Already the availability of health insurance has become an entitlement by law and its issue and administration may well be on the brink of falling within the exclusive confines of another federal program. For these reasons, not only are your insights and questions welcomed but your disagreements and protests encouraged as well.    

OUR MISSION:

It has and will remain the goal of Allplaninsurance.com to provide the most objective health, Medicare related, life and dental insurance quotes–along with the very best of service to the our policyholders. We serve residents of all fifty states (US) and the international community. We see it as our responsibility to monitor the state of the national and international insurance and the political process as it relates to such. It is our objective and, we feel–our duty–to inform the public of such matters. ALL PLAN MED & LIFE QUOTE has been based in The Woodlands, Texas since 1991.

THE MEDPLUS MESSENGER is not copyrighted and articles and analysis presented in THE MEDPLUS MESSENGER may be reproduced at your discretion. However, articles and analysis should not be construed as representing the policy, endorsement or opinion of ALL PLAN MED & LIFE QUOTE, or its agents, unless so stated. Although carefully verified, data are not guaranteed as to accuracy or completeness. ALL PLAN MED & LIFE QUOTE cannot be held directly responsible for any direct or incidental loss incurred by applying any of the information in this publication.

DIRECT QUESTIONS OR SUGGESTIONS TO FIELD OFFICES:

TEXAS & ALL OTHERS: 800.856.6556; quote@allplaninsurance.com

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IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS AND LINKS:

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT, SECTION BY SECTION (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Website): http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/rights/law/index.html

CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAID SERVICES: 1.800.633.4227: http://www.medicare.gov

U. S. (Federal) Pre-Existing Condition Health Insurance Plan:  https://www.pcip.gov/

The United States Senate: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Texas Department of Insurance: 800.252.3439: http://www.tdi.state.tx.us/

Texas Health Insurance Risk Pool (for those uninsurable by private health insurance):

888.398.3927; TDD 1.800.735.2989: http://txhealthpool.com/

New York Department of Insurance: 800.342.3736: http://www.ins.state.ny.us/

Illinois Department of Insurance: 217.782.4515: http://www.idfpr.com/

Indiana Department of Insurance: 317.232.2410: http://www.state.in.us/idoi/

California Department of Insurance: 916.322.3555: http://www.insurance.ca.gov/

United States Treasury Health Savings Account Guidelines:  http://www.treasury.gov/

Doctor Comparison:  http://www.bcbstx.com/bluecompare/tour/index.html

National Association of Health Insurance Underwriters:  http://www.nahu.org/

VISIT OUR WEB SITES AT:

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TODAY’S ISSUE OF DISCUSSION:

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its current state of implementation; the impact of such on health insurance premiums and the delayed Employer Mandate.

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FEATURE ARTICLES:

Op-Ed:

The ensuing articles demonstrate that efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act remain behind schedule and the mechanisms in place to ensure such were never for this herculean task. It is logical to conclude this is, in large part, due to the burden of  comprehending the content and demands of two thousand plus pages of the act itself and nine thousand plus pages of accompanying regulations. Both the public and private sector responsible for implementation are obviously overwhelmed with massive work this requires. This, along with the greatly underestimated costs of implementation and regulation, does not bode well for a smooth and efficient transition into compliance. Even less assured is  the long term solvency of the ever-decreasing number of participating health plans or the feasibility of guaranteed health care.

Due to the minimal penalties for failing to purchase health insurance during the next two years, it is predicated participation by those currently choosing to be uninsured will be negligible. When compared to the cost of insuring which is predicted to increase in many cases by as much or more than 100%–it is reasonable to conclude most will simply choose to pay the penalty. This will disprove the assumption that a huge influx of young, healthy insured members will subsidize the cost of insuring the older, and generally less healthy, individuals which the was the main premise on which feasibility arguments were based.

We can see from recent legislative action that portions of the bill which would impede implementation have been suspended. This, at worst, appears politically motivated and, at best, an effort to make certain as many as possible sign up for individual and family coverage through an exchange. Whether or not you are in favor of the latter is probably dependent on whether you would like to see a “single payer” health insurance system in place as, I feel, this will be the ultimate result of the exchanges and their plan mandates. In the meantime, The ACA is law. Suspension of portions of a passed act inconvenient to implementation of the act itself is unprecedented to my knowledge and there appears no legal basis for doing so.

The featured articles below begin with an overview of the distinction between “Minimum Essential Coverage” and “Essential Health Benefits” and conclude with recent abatements in enforcement of certain portions of the law. That these abatements, suspensions, moratoriums are convenient is unquestionable. The question remains, “for whom?”

Kenton Henry

Administrator, Editor: The MedPlan Messenger

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OVERVIEW MINIMAL REQUIRED COVERAGE AND PENALTIES FOR NON-COMPLIANCE

Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act includes a mandate for most individuals to have health insurance or potentially pay a penalty for noncompliance. Individuals will be required to maintain minimum essential coverage for themselves and their dependents. Some individuals will be exempt from the mandate or the penalty, while others may be given financial assistance to help them pay for the cost of health insurance.

What type of coverage satisfies the individual mandate?

“Minimum essential coverage”

What is minimum essential coverage?

Minimum essential coverage is defined as:

  • Coverage under certain      government-sponsored plans
  • Employer-sponsored      plans, with respect to any employee
  • Plans in the individual      market,
  • Grandfathered health      plans; and
  • Any other health      benefits coverage, such as a state health benefits risk pool, as      recognized by the HHS Secretary.

Minimum essential coverage does not include health insurance coverage consisting of excepted benefits, such as dental-only coverage.

How does “Minimum Essential Coverage” differ from “Essential Health Benefits”?

Essential health benefits are required to be offered by certain plans starting in 2014 as a component of the essential health benefit package.  They are also the benefits that are subject to the annual and lifetime dollar limit requirements.

This is different than minimum essential coverage, which refers to the coverage needed to avoid the individual mandate penalty.  Coverage does not have to include essential benefits to be minimum essential coverage.

What is the penalty for noncompliance?

The penalty is the greater of:

  • For 2014, $95 per      uninsured person or 1 percent of household income over the filing      threshold – whichever is greater
  • For 2015, $325 per      uninsured person or 2 percent of household income over the filing      threshold – whichever is greater
  • For 2016 and beyond,      $695 per uninsured person or 2.5 percent of household income over the      filing threshold –whichever is      greater

There is a family cap on the flat dollar amount (but not the percentage of income test) of 300 percent, and the overall penalty is capped at the national average premium of a bronze level plan purchases through an exchange.  For individuals under 18 years old, the applicable per person penalty is one-half of the amounts listed above.

Beginning in 2017, the penalties will be increased by the cost-of-living adjustment.

Who will be exempt from the mandate?

Individuals who have a religious exemption, those not lawfully present in the United States, and incarcerated individuals are exempt from the minimum essential coverage requirement.

Are there other exceptions to when the penalty may apply?

Yes.  A penalty will not be assessed on individuals who:

  1. cannot afford coverage      based on formulas contained in the law,
  2. have income below the      federal income tax filing threshold,
  3. are members of Indian      tribes,
  4. were uninsured for      short coverage gaps of less than three months;
  5. have received a      hardship waiver from the Secretary, or are residing outside of the United      States, or are bona fide residents of any possession of the United States.

*Further Clarification of the Applicable penalty
The individual one-time penalty under ACA in 2014 will be $95 per adult, or one percent of your income, whichever is greater. So say your annual income is $50,000, you’d pay $500. For every uninsured child, the penalty is $47.50. The family maximum is $285.
Coverage is assessed on a monthly basis, So if you were uninsured for six months, you’d owe half the otherwise applicable penalty.”
She said that the government has given a wide window – from Oct. 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014 – for enrollment this time, but from next year on there will only be a three-month window to sign up.
Will people take the gamble and skip coverage, hoping that their youth or good health will protect them?
If the state of Massachusetts, which passed a landmark health care law in 2006, which became the blueprint for the 2010 ACA, is any indication the number of people who will refuse to get some form of coverage will be low.
In Massachusetts, “there’s a culture of coverage. Most people want to comply with the law.”

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FORBES

Pharma & Healthcare |

7/06/2013 @ 6:25PM |290,284 views

Not Qualified For Obamacare’s Subsidies? Just Lie — Govt. To Use ‘Honor System’ Without Verifying Your Eligibility

If you thought the delay in the employer mandate was bad news for Obamacare, just wait. On Friday, Sarah Kliff and Sandhya Somashekhar of the Washington Post discovered that the Obama administration had buried in the Federal Register the announcement that the government won’t be able to verify whether or not applicants for Obamacare’s insurance exchange subsidies are actually qualified for the aid, in the 16 states that are setting up their own exchanges. Instead, until at least 2015, these states will be able to “accept the applicant’s attestation [regarding eligibility] without further verification.”

Without employer mandate, Feds to rely on applicant ‘attestations’

If you’ve been following the latest news around Obamacare, you know that on Tuesday evening, just before the Independence Day holiday, the White House announced that it would be delaying the implementation of the health law’s employer mandate—requiring all firms with more than 50 employees to provide health coverage to their workers—until 2015.

I, and several others at the time, said “wait a minute.” According to the law, you aren’t eligible for Obamacare’s subsidies if your employer has offered you what the government considers “affordable” coverage. But if employers are no longer going to report whether or not they’ve offered “affordable” coverage, how can the government verify whether or not workers are eligible for subsidies?

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DELAYED EMPLOYER MANDATE THE LATEST CHANGE FOR INCREASINGLY UNSTEADY HEALTH-CARE LAW

July 4, 2013 | Washington Post

The Obama administration has postponed one of the fundamental provisions of the health-care reform law, responding to mounting concerns from business owners who would have been required to start providing health coverage to their employees next year. On Tuesday evening, Treasury Department officials announced the government would not penalize businesses that fail to provide health insurance next year, delaying what is known as the “employer mandate” component of the law until 2015. Starting then, firms with more than 50 employees will be required to provide at least a minimum level coverage to their workers or pay a steep fine to the federal government. Officials made the decision to push the requirement back after fielding a flood of complaints from business owners about its implementation. “We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively,” Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy, wrote in a blog post announcing the postponement, later adding that the administration plans to use the additional time to “consider ways to simplify the new reporting requirements” for business owners. The newly delayed mandate has been a major point of contention for small business owners and lobbyists since it was approved as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Many warned that it would cause administrative nightmares for small employers and discourage those near the cutline from expanding beyond 50 workers. Meanwhile, some firms have started scaling back their payrolls to get underneath the cap. “Small companies have told us they are confused by the law and are simply finding it difficult to comply with, no matter when it goes into effect,” Rep. Sam Graves, chairman of the House Small Business Committee, said in an email to The Washington Post. “Instead of providing relief for businesses, this simply kicks the can down the road.” A White House official said the added time would help small business owners adapt to the changes, arguing that the law will still drive down prices for coverage on Main Street. “This allows employers the time to .?.?. make any necessary adaptations to their health benefits while staying the course toward making health coverage more affordable and accessible for their workers,” Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to Obama, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. This latest delay is the most consequential in a series of setbacks for the president’s signature law, which has shown signs of fragility as the initial deadline for full implementation approaches at the end of the year. In April, the administration announced it would delay for one year a key cost-cutting feature of the law’s new small business health insurance marketplaces. Initially, the exchanges were supposed to allow employers to choose different plans for different workers; now, for the first year, they must select only one plan from a single carrier for their entire business. More recently, the Government Accountability Office announced that federal and state officials have fallen well behind schedule setting up the marketplaces, which are scheduled to open for enrollment in October. “This is simply the latest evidence that implementation of this terrible law is going to be difficult if not impossible, and the burden is going to fall on the people who create American jobs,” Amanda Austin, director of federal public policy at the National Federation of Independent Business, said in a statement. The NFIB, a small business lobbying group, has pushed back against the health care law since it was making its way through Congress, later spearheading an effort to repeal the legislation that ended at the hands of the Supreme Court. The group has since focused on repealing some of the provisions it considers most detrimental to businesses on Main Street, including the employer mandate and a new tax on insurers. Instead of delayed, Austin argued the mandate should be eliminated altogether. “Temporary relief is small consolation,” she said. “We need a permanent fix to this provision to provide long term relief for small employers.” – See more at: http://congress.org/2013/07/04/delayed-employer-mandate-the-latest-change-for-increasingly-unsteady-health-care-law/#sthash.JwCb3wWY.dpuf

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