Weekly Health Care Wrap-Up.
Still No Word from the Supreme Court
Another week and still no ruling by the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act. The decision could come as soon as Monday, when the Court will issue its next round of rulings. Even still, the Court still needs to issue five opinions, plus the health care decision, before it heads out of town. While Monday is the last official opinion day on the Court’s calendar, additional days will likely be added. Stay tuned.
HHS Announces Community Health Center Funding
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week announced $128.6 million in funding for community health centers across the country. The grants will fund 219 health centers in 41 states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. HHS estimates the awards will add 5,640 jobs and provide services to 1.25 million new patients. Additional information can be found here.
HHS Asks for Comments on MAGI Conversion, Satisfaction Survey
HHS this week solicited comments on two potential methodologies for converting current state Medicaid and CHIP income eligibility standards to modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) standards. Respondents are also welcome to submit additional approaches. HHS is seeking responses by July 23, 2012. In addition, the agency also released a notice seeking ideas on how to establish a satisfaction survey system to be administered to members of each qualified health plan offered through an exchange. In particular, HHS is interested in ways to measure quality of care from the consumer’s perspective and track changes over time. Responses are sought by June 29, 2012.
House Passes User Fee Bill
Following negotiations between House and Senate lawmakers, the House this week approved FDA User Fee legislation by voice vote, sending the bill to the Senate for consideration. The Senate is expected to pass the bill easily sometime next week and send it to President Obama for his signature. Despite heightened political tensions in Congress, the five-year deal enjoyed bipartisan support throughout the legislative process. Additional information can be found here.
The Pew Center on the States is out with a new issue brief looking at states’ efforts to cover the long-term costs of their employees’ pensions and retiree health care. The issue brief can be found here.
Larry Levitt and Gary Claxton from the Kaiser Family Foundation examine two factors that could prevent a “death spiral” in the individual insurance market if the Supreme Court strikes the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, while upholding the rest of the law. The analysis can be found here.
New data from HHS finds that more than 3 million young adults gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The information can be found here.
The Kaiser Family Foundation is also out with a new resource presenting data and analyzing issues related to coverage and access for oral health in the U.S. The new resources can be found here.
A new survey from JD Power and Associates finds that 47 percent of employers say they “definitely will” or “probably will” switch to a defined contribution model within a private exchange. The survey results can be found here.
From the States
For full coverage of state exchange activities, check out this week’s State of the States: Health Insurance Exchange Developments here.
Massachusetts. The state this week released a request for responses (RFR) for “integrated care organizations” to integrate care for dual eligibles between the ages of 21 and 64 statewide. The population includes more than 111,000 adults with disabilities, serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders, among other conditions. The RFR lists the target implementation date as April 1, 2013.
New Hampshire. On Tuesday, Governor John Lynch (D-NH) signed HB1297, a bill that prohibits New Hampshire and all state agencies, departments and subdivisions from participating in planning for or creating a state-based health insurance exchange. However, the bill allows New Hampshire’s agencies to plan with the federal government for the creation of a federally-facilitated exchange. The legislation also creates a twelve person health exchange advisory board to advise the Insurance Commissioner and the Commissioner of Health and Human Services on exchange issues.
Health Insurance Exchanges: State of the States update.
With another week passing by without a ruling from the Supreme Court, exchange watchers are eagerly looking forward to next week. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the ACA could come as early as Monday, but the Court could also make us wait a few more days. As we’ve previously written, it’s been a slow few weeks for exchange policy makers in the states as they wait for the Supreme Court’s decision. But the uncertainty surrounding the ACA didn’t stop two states from making strong moves this week.
On Wednesday and Thursday respectively, Rhode Island and Connecticut made executive level hires to fill their top exchange posts. Christine Ferguson was tapped by Governor Lincoln Chafee (I) as Director of the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange. Ferguson’s experience includes serving as Rhode Island’s human services director from 1995 to 2001 and serving as the Massachusetts public health commissioner. In Connecticut, Governor Dannel P. Malloy (D) hired Kevin J. Counihan to be CEO of the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange. Previously Counihan was president of Choice Administrators Exchange Solutions in Orange, California and from 2006 to 2011, he was the CMO for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority.
Meanwhile in New Hampshire, Governor John Lynch (D) signed legislation into law (HB1297) that severely restricts the state’s exchange planning capabilities. Under the enacted legislation, all of New Hampshire’s state agencies, departments and subdivisions are barred from planning or creating a state-based health insurance exchange. However, the bill allows New Hampshire to plan with the federal government for the creation of a federally-facilitated exchange. According to Colin Manning, a spokesman for the Governor, the reason Governor Lynch signed the bill because it did not “prevent the state from participating in a federal health exchange.”
Finally, as states and their consultants begin conceptualizing how exchange portals should guide users through selecting a health insurance plan, eHealthInsurance has released a report that shares their experience and offers some “best practices.” Of note, a consumer’s familiarity with an insurance company had little impact on their decision to purchase insurance from an insurer. Instead, it was more important for the insurer to have a simple application process and be easily contacted to answer questions. Also, eHealthInsurance found that potential customers who used the site’s decision support tools to select a plan were more likely to complete an application and purchase health insurance compared to other users who began the application process after getting a free quote.