MLA's Weekly Health Care Wrap-Up

June 15, 2012

Federal Health Care Update

Larsen Steps Down at CCIIO

Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) Director Steve Larsen will step down from his post in mid-July.  According to reports, Larsen is headed to OPTUM, a business within the United Health Group.

Appropriations Committee Approves Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill

The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the Labor-HHS FY13 appropriations bill this week by a narrow margin. Democrats successfully protected funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the process, including the Prevention and Public Health Fund and increased Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) funding for exchange activities. In an interesting bipartisan twist, the Committee approved Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) amendment to reserve $50 million of NIH funding for entities in states that did not typically draw down high amounts of NIH funds.  The full Senate has yet to consider the measure.

Insurers Make Post-SCOTUS Pledge

Some of the nation’s largest insurers this week pledged to keep several popular provisions implemented as part of the ACA in place, regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling later this month.  In particular, United, Aetna and Humana pledged to maintain several changes as a result of the law, including:

Cigna and Wellpoint indicated they will wait until after the ruling to make a decision.  Meanwhile, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said it will “encourage its 38 local [BCBS] Companies to offer the broadest set of protections possible at an affordable price. Plans will be responsive to their members and the communities they serve.” The date of the Supreme Court’s announcement is still uncertain, with a decision possible as soon as Monday.

CMMI Announces Second Batch of Innovation Challenge Awardees

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation today (Friday) announced its second batch of Innovation Challenge awardees. This round of awards funded 81 projects, bringing the total number of projects to 107.  An interactive map on those awarded funding can be found here.

Boustany Launches CMMI Innovation Challenge Inquiry

Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany launched an inquiry into Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation funding, particularly the $1 billion Innovation Challenge. The letter came just days before CMMI announced its latest round of awardees.

MLA Health Care News

Senior Managing Director Cindy Gillespie is out with a new post on the Health Affairs blog examining the game-changing decision by HHS to allow brokers and agents to use their own web portals to assist individuals in enrolling in qualified health plans (QHPs).  Specifically, HHS opened the door for states to allow an agent or broker to enroll individuals, employers or employees in Qualified Health Plans (QHPs), in a manner that constitutes “enrollment through the exchange,” on their own website.  The blog post, which also considers the shift’s impact on agents and brokers, consumers, states, technology vendors and carriers, can be found here.

Meanwhile, following an event featuring Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens focused on the Supreme Court’s consideration of the Affordable Care Act, Partner Bruce Brown appeared in the Atlanta Business Chronicle commenting on the case.  The article can be found here. Bruce also appeared in The Denver Business Journal on the same topic. That article can be found here (subscription required).

Finally, MLA’s Employee Benefits practice is out with two new client alerts focused on health care issues. The first alert addresses the mandate requiring coverage of women’s preventive health care services that goes into effect on August 1.  The second alert evaluates the IRS guidance on the new $2,500 FSA limit. 

From the States

For full coverage of state exchange activities, check out this week's State of the States: Health Insurance Exchange Developments here.

Hawaii. Governor Neil Abercrombie announced this week his intent to move forward with a state-based exchange in his state. In a statement, Coral Andrews, executive director of the Hawaii Connector said, "We’re very focused on establishing the exchange as State-Based, ensuring that the Connector is of Hawai'i and for Hawai'i.”  The Governor’s statement can be found here.

Massachusetts. The state’s efforts to rein in health care costs headed to conference committee this week, where legislators will try to hash out differences between the Senate and House versions of the legislation. The 6-member conference committee will debate the state’s attempts to move away from fee-for-service payment and toward medical malpractice reform as well as cost growth containment targets, among other issues.  More information about the conference committee deliberations can be found here.

calendarCalendar: Looking Ahead

Tuesday, June 19

Wednesday, June 20

Thursday, June 21