Health Insurance Reform Issues Student Health Insurance

With a law as complex as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), unintended consequences are always a concern. Last week The Wall Street Journal reported that the physician community is witnessing the emergence of a significant unintended consequence — since tax-advantaged flexible spending accounts can no longer be used to pay for over-the-counter medications without a prescription, under the law, many patients are now visiting their doctors expressly for the purpose of getting new prescriptions for the OTC medications. The change in the law was meant to discourage wasteful spending on some health products and raise revenue. Instead, critics say the provision is driving up health care costs. Unintended consequences of the health care reform law is an area of focus for Aetna insurance, and will continue to urge flexibility in the implementation process to help address potential unintended consequences.

In response to various requests for clarification (including from Aetna insurance), federal regulators last week issued a Question & Answer document that further refines the previous proposed rule on student health. In short, this clarification makes it clear that nothing from PPACA applies to student health plans until policy years beginning in 2012 or until academic year 2012-2013. The Q & A also clarified that the proposed regulation must be finalized to show what parts of the PPACA would apply to student health plans. This is welcome news in the college and university community. Aetna is communicating with its clients in a manner that is consistent with last week’s clarification, though many schools were hearing conflicting advice from state regulators.

The House-passed continuing resolution includes language that would “prohibit the use of funds to pay any employee, officer, contractor, or grantee of any department or agency to implement the provisions” of the PPACA. In a letter to Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made several claims that, should the de-funding provisions in the resolution be enacted into law, seniors will lose access to Medicare Advantage plans and other services. Senate Republicans were quick to dispute these allegations stating, the scenarios the Secretary envisions are not allowed under Congressional rules, are not assumed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and can be prevented by HHS.  Senator Orrin Hatch and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp also sent Secretary Sebelius a letter expressing their disappointment in what they called the letter’s “baseless allegations,” and expressing hope that “the urgency with which this letter was sent to Chairman Baucus is also being applied in answering a growing backlog of serious questions.”  The CBO also released a letter regarding the impact of the resolution, including the impact of the de-funding provisions on Medicare Advantage. The letter shows the de-funding provisions would have a minimal MA budgetary impact of .7 billion over 10 years.

Governor Jan Brewer’s Special Advisor on Arizona health insurance Health Care Innovations held a meeting last week with the state’s major health insurers, including Aetna insurance, to discuss identifying IT gaps the state must address to develop the online product selection and enrollment mechanism for an insurance exchange. Social Interest Solutions, the organization that developed the enrollment form currently used by Medicaid applicants, provided a demonstration of that application process. Individual interviews will be conducted with the IT staff of each company to obtain recommendations for the new system.

The Real Estate Committee last week voted out a substitute prior-approval rate bill that retains all the problematic sections of the original bill. The sections of concern cover public hearings, new subpoena powers for the Attorney General and Connecticut health insurance Healthcare Advocate, multiple notice requirements, and new definitions of inadequate, excessive, and unfairly discriminatory. The only change is that the Commissioner would have to promulgate regulations to carry out the proposed public hearing process. The full contingent of Republicans and Rep. Linda Schofield (Dem.) voted against the bill, with Schofield stating that she was concerned the bill gets rid of any timeline under which the Department must act and would require public hearings, nonsensically, for group rates. She also said the bill would provide the Attorney General and Advocate with extraordinary subpoena powers. The Chairs indicated that the bill is a work in progress.

Florida health insurance Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty has disclosed that he will be submitting a medical loss ration (MLR) waiver request to HHS this week.

Georgia health insurance Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has indicated he will be

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