A project of the George Washington University's Hirsh Health Law and Policy Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Issue brief examines health plan quality improvement efforts

Posted on July 29, 2014 | Comments Off

In a new issue brief published by the Commonwealth Fund, researchers from Georgetown’s Center on Health Insurance reforms reviewed state action in selective contracting, informing consumers about health plan quality, and collecting data on insurers’ quality improvement efforts. The study found that 13 state-based marketplaces have taken action to implement the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) quality improvement goals. The authors also assess technical and operational challenges states face in using the Marketplace to help drive system wide change in health care delivery.

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Study looks at remaining uninsured

Posted on July 29, 2014 | Comments Off

A new study by the Urban Institute funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that two-thirds of the nation’s remaining uninsured adults have incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). While this is the target population of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion, 40 percent of the uninsured live in states that chose not to expand Medicaid. The study found that affordability was the main reason people did not get health insurance, yet many uninsured individuals had limited awareness of potential financial help available to them.

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CMS issues regulations on premium payment

Posted on July 24, 2014 | Comments Off

The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued Federal guidance which gives individuals a three-month grace period to pay a premium without losing coverage. However, the same guidance states that if individuals choose enroll in a new policy for 2015, insurance companies cannot apply new premiums to outstanding 2014 debt. Some have suggested that this inconsistency could allow consumers to avoid paying their December premiums. However, nothing bars an insurer from making a bona fide effort to collect any unpaid premiums, as the consumer would still owe this amount to the insurer.

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IRS releases final rules on tax credit and drug fee

Posted on July 24, 2014 | Comments Off

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published a final rule clarifying its premium tax credit policy for those enrolling in health plans through Affordable Insurance Exchanges with complicated family and household situations. The rule clarifies that certain married individuals, including spouses in abusive relationships, and divorced or separated taxpayers, can be considered not married for the purposes of the Internal Revenue Code, under Section 7703(b).

The agency also released a final rule regarding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) branded prescription drug fee. The rule  provides guidance on the annual fee imposed on covered entities engaged in the business of manufacturing or importing branded prescription drugs.

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10.3 million adults estimated to have gained coverage under the ACA

Posted on July 24, 2014 | Comments Off

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that an estimated 10.3 million adults gained insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The study, performed by Harvard researchers, reported a 5.2% decline in the uninsured rate during the first open enrollment period.  Data analyzed for this project included Gallup polls and ACA enrollment statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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HRSA removes orphan drug exemption under 340B

Posted on July 22, 2014 | Comments Off

A rule released yesterday by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) clarifies a portion of the 340B program, which requires drug manufacturers to offer their pharmaceuticals at a discounted rate to covered entities.  Under 340B, a covered entity typically refers to healthcare providers treating medically vulnerable populations, such as Ryan White Clinics or Disproportionate Share Hospitals.  The new rule specifically removes the discount exemption for orphan drugs sold for off-label usage.  A recent lawsuit led to the promulgation of this interpretative rule,  as many orphan drugs are used to treat conditions other than the rare conditions for which the drugs were created.

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Courts issue conflicting ACA decisions

Posted on July 22, 2014 | Comments Off

Today, two federal appeals courts issued contradictory decisions regarding the availability of advanced premium tax credits, or subsidies, for federally-facilitated marketplaces (FFM).  In a 2-1 decision in Halbig v. Burwell, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) did not possess the authority to issue subsidies for qualifying individuals enrolling in FFM.  In a similar case entitled King v. Burwell, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond unanimously upheld that subsidies may be offered by the IRS in both federally-facilitated and state-based Marketplaces.  Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), individuals earning 400% or less of the federal poverty level may receive subsidies in order to offset some of the premium costs for obtaining health insurance through the ACA Marketplaces.  The differing opinions issued today indicate that this issue will likely be taken up by the Supreme Court.

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Report finds weaknesses in ACA enrollment controls

Posted on July 22, 2014 | Comments Off

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a preliminary report finding that fraud controls for enrollment in health care coverage and consumer subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may be lacking. Congressional investigators using fake identities were able to obtain taxpayer-subsidized health insurance on Affordable Insurance Exchanges. The report’s findings were contained in testimony delivered at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on July 23.

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Study finds an increase in premiums in 2013

Posted on July 17, 2014 | Comments Off

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Medical Expenditure Panel Survey reports that premiums for employer-sponsored insurance increased by about 3.5 percent in 2013. Out-of-pocket costs also climbed by at least 4 percent in 2013. However, the majority of Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance market reforms did not take effect until 2014, meaning data on 2014 premiums will provide more meaningful insight into the law’s impact on premiums and cost sharing.

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Study assesses states’ Medicaid spending per enrollee

Posted on July 17, 2014 | Comments Off

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finds that eight states spent at least $10,500 per Medicaid recipient in 2008, while the majority of states were clustered in the $6,000-$8,000 range, per enrollee. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Medicaid spending is estimated at $267 billion, a figure that is expected to nearly double by FY 2024. The GAO’s report assessed why there is so much variation in per-enrollee spending across states and how states account for those differences when setting Medicaid managed care rates.

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