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Health Care Reform Update

February 27, 2014

Health Reform Weekly
Legislative news from Aetna Public Affairs

Week of February 17, 2014

At the top of health care reform news last week was word that the Obama administration is again relaxing the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) employer shared responsibility requirements, also known as the employer mandate. The final rule issued by the U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service states that the requirements will take effect on January 1, 2015 for large employers, but employers with between 50 and 99 employees will have until January 1, 2016 to comply. Enforcement of the employer mandate was rolled back once before, from 2014 to 2015, last year. For 2015 only, large employers will be considered to be in full compliance with the requirement if coverage is offered to 70 percent of their full-time employees rather than the original 95 percent standard.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an issue brief last week that shows 3.3 million individuals have selected an exchange health plan through February 1, 2014.  This includes 1.36 million in state-based exchanges and 1.94 million in the federally facilitated exchange.  About 1.1 million people enrolled in January 2014 alone. Those who enrolled are made up of 55 percent females and 45 percent males. Also, 31 percent are up to age 34; 16 percent are 35-44; 22 percent are 45-54; and 31 percent are 55-64.

Federal

Shortly before leaving on recess, the House and the Senate last week approved the “Temporary Debt Limit Extension Act” without any extraneous provisions.  This legislation will suspend the federal government’s debt limit through March 15, 2015. President Obama signed the bill into law, resolving for the next 13 months an issue that has the potential to cause considerable uncertainty for financial markets and the U.S. economy. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene on February 24, and the House will return on February 25.  The next stretch of the 2014 session will include votes on ACA issues, efforts to identify budget offsets for Medicare physician payment reforms, and hearings on the President’s forthcoming budget for fiscal year 2015. 

State

CONNECTICUT: At a meeting of the Lt. Governor’s health care cabinet, Kevin Counihan, the CEO of Access Health CT, estimated that enrollment at the end of the open enrollment period will be about 150,000, which would be 50 percent more than the goal.  As of February 11, 124,203 individuals have enrolled, 41 percent in qualified health plans and the balance in Medicaid plans.  Counihan expects user experience at the end of a surge expected at the end of open enrollment (March 31) to be much improved. Access Health CT is planning for the surge by adding more resources to its call center and web portal, and by bringing the Spanish website live in about two weeks.  Access Health CT is adding new functionality to the web portal for the fall open enrollment period, including an improved enrollment application format for mobile phones and tablets